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County Looks to Experiment With Expanded Tree Maintenance Program

A pot of money for free tree plantings could soon branch out to another use.

Arlington County’s Tree Canopy Fund helps people, places of worship and others get free trees, but there’s been little money made available for maintaining trees due to stringent requirements — so stringent that only three trees in Arlington are currently eligible.

The County Board is slated to adjust those restrictions at its Saturday meeting.

“This will be a huge win for our tree canopy because we want to plant more trees but also maintain more trees,” said Elenor Hodges, executive director of the nonprofit EcoAction Arlington, which helps to administer the program for the county.

Hodges said the maintenance could help with issues ranging from pruning to pest control.

The fund was started in 2007 as a way for developers that were unable to meet tree planting requirements to make a financial contribution instead. Over 2,000 trees have been planted through the program.

As of December, the fund had about $693,000 in it, according to a county staff report.

“While Arlington County staff regularly receive requests for assistance in the maintenance of large mature trees, the stringent eligibility criteria for the Tree Canopy Fund has only allowed for support of three trees in the County,” the report said. “To date, only two maintenance applications have been awarded funding: a Champion Green Ash in Lyon Park and a Champion Southern Red Oak on private property.”

If approved by the Board, 10 trees — selected by a committee — would be eligible for up to $5,000 in maintenance, as part of “an exploratory project.”

The measure also calls for 1% of the fund to be set aside for possible marketing and advertising efforts each year.

“Proper tree maintenance can add decades to the life of a large canopy tree, and all the environmental services it provides,” county staff wrote, explaining the rationale for the project. “However, tree maintenance can be expensive, and even homeowners who would like to care of their trees may not have the resources available to do so, or may choose to remove a tree to avoid longer-term maintenance costs.”

“A Tree Canopy Fund Maintenance Program would be an opportunity to conserve existing canopy while still planting future canopy trees,” the reports adds. “The County is looking to invest in mature canopy trees that are going to survive for many years to come.”

For individuals and groups seeking free trees through the existing planting program, the deadline for applications is June 25.

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