Student Population Predicted to Keep Rising — “Arlington school officials say they now anticipate the total student population to rise an additional 24 percent by 2028, and the latest round of projections has raised fears the school system could fall further behind in its efforts to keep up with elementary-school enrollment.” [InsideNova]
Amazon to First Come to Rosslyn? — “Amazon.com Inc. is said to be in talks to take some or all of the planned WeWork co-working space set to open in Rosslyn later this year as it plots its longer term growth at National Landing,” reports the Washington Business Journal. ARLnow has also heard from a commercial real estate source that Amazon will station its initial Arlington “HQ2” employees at the Rosslyn WeWork, while its temporary space in Crystal City is built out, but we have been able to confirm the rumor. [Washington Business Journal]
Local Elm Tree Honored — An American elm tree on S. Randolph Street “has become the first elm tree to be named a specimen tree in Arlington County.” [Arlington County]
Police Outreach Meeting Postponed — “Due to projected inclement weather, the North Outreach Team Quarterly Meeting scheduled for… January 29, has been postponed. Event details on the rescheduled meeting will be provided at a later time.” [Twitter]
Patient Stops By Fire Station to Thank Rescuers — “Andrew stopped by Fire Station 10 to show his gratitude after being extricated from his overturned Jeep last week on Route 110. Andrew was released from the hospital one day after the accident with no life threatening injuries.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Landmark Mall Development Update — “There are several years until any major construction activity occurs at Landmark Mall, but Alexandria and the mall’s owner are homing in now on the parameters that will guide the nearly 6 million-square-foot redevelopment… Buildings could rise as high as 250 feet, per one recommendation.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Christmas Tree Pickup Underway — For residents eligible for Arlington County’s trash collection service, the special curbside Christmas tree service is currently underway. Trees will be hauled away on the regular trash collection day through Jan. 11 and turned into mulch. [Arlington County]
Shutdown Could Hurt Local Businesses — “In Greater Washington, that could mean about 40 percent of approximately 362,000 federal workers — about 145,000 — would not receive roughly $15 million per day in pay, according to rough estimates… The shutdown is likely to hit industries that depend heavily on the discretionary spending of federal workers and contractors.” [Washington Business Journal]
Would-Be Local Amazon Locations — Among the places Amazon could have gone to in Northern Virginia, if it did not pick the Pentagon City and Crystal City area for its new office campus, were Alexandria near the Eisenhower Metro station and Rosslyn, with a prominent skyline view along the Potomac. [Washington Business Journal]
Ads on Virginia School Buses? — “Advertising on the back end of school buses? It could be coming to the Old Dominion. The state legislature again this session will consider a proposal by Del. Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol) allowing school districts to place commercial advertising between the rear wheels and the rear of the bus.” [InsideNova]
Metro Touts Fewer Fires — “Metro will end 2018 with the lowest number of insulator-related smoke/fire incidents in years – 66 percent fewer compared to 2016 – despite record rainfall this year. Water infiltration in Metro’s tunnels has historically been the leading cause of such incidents.” [WMATA]
Pre-Boarding Snafu at DCA — “A couple says their holiday trip to Virginia was ruined by a traumatic incident on their flight home. A disabled husband was forced to pre-board alone, while his sick wife had to stay behind at the gate” for a Southwest Airlines flight at Reagan National Airport. [Fox 5]
Flickr pool photo by Maryland Nomadic
ACPD Helps With Bush Funeral — Arlington County Police Department motor officers “had the honor of assisting with escorts” for the George H.W. Bush funeral yesterday. [Twitter]
Arlington County Named LGBTQ ‘All-Star’ — “For the third year in a row, Arlington has received national recognition for its protections of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community members. The County scored 92 out of 100 on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI)… because it scored at least an 85 despite being in a state without supportive state-level LGBTQ protections, the County also earned ‘all-star’ recognition.” [Arlington County]
Bikeshare Station Coming to Gravelly Point — A Capital Bikeshare station was being installed along the Mt. Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park yesterday. [Twitter]
County, Volunteers Planting Trees — “This fall alone, the Tree Stewards has planted about 300 trees. The group planned on planting 900, but the ice and snow in early November steered it a little off track. Arlington County contractors picked up the rest of the job.” [WDVM]
Flickr pool by Tom Mockler
Reminder: Yellow Line Shutdown Starts Today — There will be no Yellow Line service today through Sunday, Dec. 9 as Metro works to repair the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac. Yellow Line riders can instead take the Blue Line and/or free shuttle service. [ARLnow, Twitter]
New ‘Clarendon Circle’ Traffic Restriction — Work on improvements to the busy “Clarendon Circle” intersection are underway and have resulted in at least one traffic pattern change. During construction, drivers will not be allowed to make the “tricky” left from eastbound Washington Blvd to Clarendon Blvd, and will instead have to follow a detour via N. Kirkwood Road. [Twitter, Arlington County]
Civ Fed Prepares Tree Canopy Resolution — “The Arlington County Civic Federation in December will weigh in on the development plan of Upton Hill Regional Park and, more broadly, on Arlington government policies on retaining or removing trees during redevelopment on public land. A resolution demanding a temporary halt to current development plans at Upton Hill was introduced at the Civic Federation’s Nov. 13 meeting and will be debated and voted on Dec. 4.” [InsideNova]
Minor Bluemont House Fire — Firefighters extinguished an out-of-control fire in the fireplace of a Bluemont house Saturday night. No injuries were reported but the home, on the 900 block of N. Frederick Street, suffered some smoke damage. [Twitter, Twitter]
Another Traffic Nightmare at DCA — As if the gridlock caused by the Veterans Day shutdown of the National Airport Metro station wasn’t bad enough, the traffic nightmare repeated itself Sunday evening, during one of the busiest travel days of the year. Some drivers reported spending hours trying to get to and from the airport. [NBC Washington, Twitter]
CBS Looks at Clarendon’s Vpoint Apartments — On Saturday morning, CBS News took a close look at the vPoint affordable housing project in Clarendon. The project, which converted a stand-alone church to a combination worship space and apartment building, is potentially a model for other communities struggling with affordable housing. At the time, however, the redevelopment faced lawsuits and other community opposition. [YouTube]
Amazon News Roundup — Arlington saw only modest successes in its quest to pitch itself as a tech hub over the past few years, but Amazon’s arrival changes that narrative in a big way. That said, half of the jobs Amazon brings to Arlington will be non-technical. Meanwhile, Amazon may benefit lower-income residents in New York City more than in Arlington, as subcontractors in New York will be subject to the state’s $15 per hour minimum wage; Virginia’s minimum wage is currently the federal $7.25 per hour minimum. And Nashville, some say, will be the biggest winner in terms of Amazon’s new presence boosting the local commercial real estate market.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Parks officials have signed off on some big changes at Theodore Roosevelt Island, including the rehabilitation of a troublesome section of the Mt. Vernon Trail and the addition of several new landing spots for small boats and kayaks.
The National Park Service announced yesterday (Monday) that it will move ahead with a variety of construction projects on the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, after settling on some final designs and certifying they’ll have minimal environmental impacts on the island.
Some of the changes will be relatively small, like the addition of some new signs and markers detailing Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy — the island is home to the lone memorial to the nation’s 26th president in D.C. Others will be more substantial, such as the total overhaul and realignment of a boardwalk-style bridge on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which runs from underneath the Roosevelt Bridge to just south of the island’s parking lot.
The park service’s plans call for a “replacement of the bridge deck and railing to provide a smoother riding surface.” That will likely come as good news to area cyclists, who have nicknamed it “the Trollheim Bridge” for its treacherous surface — TheWashCycle blog described it as a the “notoriously slippery part of the Mt. Vernon trail that has caused literally thousands of crashes” in a post last year.
The main, 1,400-foot-section of the bridge also meets an additional 90-foot section toward its north end, creating an awkward “T” intersection for cyclists. The realignment work will eliminate that intersection, creating a new left turn lane as well.
Other walking trails on the island will see some improvements under the plans as well. The NPS is hoping to improve connections between the pedestrian bridge and the island’s Memorial Plaza and create “universal access to the entire Swamp Trail, including access to the comfort station.” That small rest stop is also set to see a refresh under these plans.
The NPS is also hoping to add a total of four landings for canoes, kayaks and row boats on the island. Each one will be about 12 feet wide, and provide “access for approximately 4-5 kayaks/canoes,” according to the park service’s documents. The plans also call for the construction of a roughly 100-foot-long “floating dock” for larger craft, to be located at the island’s northeast corner, once the home of a ferry landing.
The park service noted in an environmental analysis of these proposed changes that, currently, “boaters and kayakers anchor or beach their non-motorized watercraft on unmarked areas along the shoreline.” Officials fear that the “practice impacts natural and archeological resources and has the potential to expose boaters and kayakers to underwater hazards in shoreline areas,” reasoning that the new landings should alleviate that issue. The area could also be in line to see increased boating activity, should the NPS’ plans to build the long-anticipated Rosslyn boathouse continue to advance.
Additionally, the park service wants to add some more vegetation and trees to the largely wooded island. Some new shrubs will be designed to cover up existing “social” bike trails on the island’s north shore line; other tree plantings will replace the roughly 200 ash trees the NPS had to remove last summer due to an “emerald ash borer infestation.”
The NPS says it’s still searching for funding for the entire range of projects on the island, but some will move ahead in the near term. The Mt. Vernon Trail bridge improvements, for instance, are currently out for bid by federal officials and could be completed by sometime in 2020.
With Thanksgiving coming up next week, holiday season preparations are right around the corner. Arlington residents in search of a Christmas tree can head to these spots to pick out the perfect pine.
The Optimist Club of Arlington will start its annual tree sale next at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23 in the Wells Fargo Bank lot along Lee Highway (2213 N. Glebe Road). The sales will end around Dec. 21 depending on availability, according to a press release.
Its hours are:
- Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.
- Friday, noon to 8 p.m.
- Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The lot will also have wreaths, garland and White House Christmas ornaments available for purchase. All of the proceeds go to the club’s youth programs, which provide support and scholarships to local children.
For the first time this year, the Optimist Club will also be selling trees at a second location.
From Dec. 5-7, the club and the Ballston BID will operate a “pop-up lot” in the Ballston Gold’s Gym parking lot on Wilson Blvd. The lot is scheduled to be open from 3-7 p.m. and will offer smaller trees than the main Wells Fargo lot. A food truck is also set to serve food for tree shoppers.
The Arlington South Lions Club will begin its annual Christmas tree sale next Friday, Nov. 23, as well.
The sale will take place at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive from noon to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends until Dec. 24. Also planned is a Christmas Tree 5K on the W&OD Trail on Saturday, Dec. 1.
“Benefits from the Christmas Tree 5K and Lions Club Christmas Tree Sale will provide resources for sight preservation, disaster relief, Arlington Youth activities, the Arlington Free Clinic and the Arlington Food Assistance Center,” according to the Lions Club. “The Club will be providing Christmas trees to low-income families as well to provide joy during holiday celebrations.”
The Clarendon United Methodist Church (606 N. Irving Street), meanwhile, begins its tree sale on Saturday, Nov. 24 and runs until the lot sold out. Proceeds will go toward Rise Against Hunger, Wings of Caring and Arlington Thrive.
The schedule is:
- Monday to Friday, 6 to 8 p.m.
- Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
Other usual Christmas tree sale locations to check out include Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church (830 23rd Street S.) in Aurora Highlands, Whole Foods stores and local farmers markets. Spots outside of Arlington include the Middleburg Christmas Tree Farm and Almost Heavenly Christmas Trees, which has a location in North Ridge and another in Landmark.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]
Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]
New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Anyone looking to get a little recognition for their favorite tree can now ask the county to designate it as a “notable tree.”
Nominations are open for the next month, through Nov. 15, for trees to earn the designation.
The county has accepted nominations since 1987 to honor notable trees “and those who care for them,” according to the county’s website. Officials will evaluate trees for inclusion based on the following categories:
- Maturity (Size/Age)
- Historical or community interest
- Uniqueness of species
- Special significance to the neighborhood
Notable trees will earn a certificate or plaque, placement on a county register of trees and could be included on neighborhood walking tours.
Anyone can submit an online form to make a nomination on the county’s website. However, if a tree sits on private property, the county encourages people to contact the property owner for permission first.
County staffers will evaluate each tree, then make recommendations to the Urban Forestry Commission, which has the final say on the matter. The county identified 28 notable trees earlier this year.
Even if a tree earns such a designation, the county notes that private property owners still have a large amount of discretion about the tree’s future.
County officials took quite a bit of flak recently for allowing a large dawn redwood tree, which earned a whole host of local and state commendations, to be chopped down as part of a redevelopment in a Williamsburg neighborhood. Arlington leaders said they worked to avoid that outcome, but said their hands were tied, as the tree was indeed on private property.
Lubber Run Project Budget Boosted — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 agreed to add about $1.4 million to the budget for rebuilding Lubber Run Community Center, which will push the construction cost to $41.14 million and the management fees to $4.11 million.” [InsideNova]
Clarendon Circle Construction Begins — “Things will start looking different in Clarendon and not because of too many cosmos at Don Tito’s. The long-awaited Circle intersection improvements project kicks off today.” [Twitter]
Neighborhoods Want in on W-L Name Discussion — “The president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association thinks Arlington school leaders may need some remedial work in geography. Bernie Berne used the Sept. 20 School Board meeting to complain that his community had been shut out of the committee set up to suggest new names for Washington-Lee High School, even though it is closer to the school than another civic association that has been included on the panel.” [InsideNova]
Fire at Columbia Pike Building — On the 5100 block of Columbia Pike: “First arriving units found a fire contained to an appliance. The fire was extinguished. All occupants are safe & accounted for.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Tree Advocates Increase Pressure — “Another month has brought another round in the ongoing dispute between tree activists and the Arlington County Board – and much of the give and take on both sides is beginning to sound familiar to the point of repetitious. Activists in support of expanding the county’s tree canopy were among a number of advocacy groups that descended on the Sept. 22 County Board meeting. Among their chief complaints: The county government hasn’t done anything to prevent the removal of trees during an upcoming expansion project at Upton Hill Regional Park.” [InsideNova, Twitter]
Fox News Highlights Lucky Dog — Arlington’s Lucky Dog Rescue continues to get national attention for its work rescuing dogs from areas flooded by Hurricane Florence. Over the weekend Fox News broadcast from Shirlington to bring attention to the dogs that are now available for adoption. [Yahoo]
Planners say they hope to save dozens of trees originally slated to be cut down as part of an overhaul of Upton Hill Regional Park, a move viewed by environmental advocates as a small, but meaningful concession to their concerns about changes at the park.
NOVA Parks, the regional body that manages Upton Hill, wrote in a letter to the county’s Urban Forestry Commission last week that it hopes to save as many as 49 trees on the site, nixing plans for a new parking lot in the park’s lower half and new vehicle entrance from Wilson Blvd.
As many as 115 trees were originally set to be chopped down at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, when a $3 million renovation of Upton Hill gets moving later this year. That’s prompted some fierce pushback from neighbors and conservationists alike, who have rallied to reverse what they see as a blow to the county’s tree canopy and stormwater management.
Even though the County Board won’t have any direct say on the project’s design, the outcry convinced the Urban Forestry Commission to pen a letter to the Board about the project on Aug. 29.
Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, wrote back on Sept. 6 to say that his staff had managed to make some changes to save 35 living trees and 14 dead ones on the property. Rather than building a new parking lot, he plans to create more handicapped-accessible street parking spaces, while also making street parking on Wilson Blvd “time-limited during the day.”
“This change will allow us to achieve the goal of a more inviting lower park area that the Civic Associations had requested, while eliminating the lower parking lot and vehicular access off Wilson Blvd,” Gilbert wrote. “The Upton Hill Improvement Plan is a win-win for both the natural resources and active users of the park.”
A group critical of the park’s redevelopment known as the Friends of Upton Hill hailed those changes in a Sept. 9 email to supporters, attributing it to mounting “public pressure and scrutiny” of the plans. Local environmental activist Suzanne Sundberg was also cautiously optimistic.
“Is the current plan ideal? No,” she told ARLnow. “Is it enough to prevent increases in runoff and erosion down that hill? Probably not. But it is an improvement. And I’m grateful for any improvements to a plan that is about as ill-conceived, wasteful and destructive as it could possibly be.”
Both Sundberg and the friends group are also anxiously awaiting the formal release of NOVA Parks’ newly revised tree removal plans. For instance, Sundberg is suspicious that “possible other trees not on the existing removal list are now being counted as ‘saved’ to make the numbers appear better.”
“For example, trees less than three inches in diameter at breast height were not included in the existing tree-removal plan/list, even though they, too, would have been removed,” Sundberg said. “I have to wonder whether some of these ‘saved’ trees might actually represent some of these smaller ones not originally identified.”
The friends group also expressed hope that some three mature maple trees near the lower playground set to be renovated — previously described by Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Chris Tighe as “something out of a Stephen King horror movie” — will also somehow be saved.
“It would also be tough for kids to enjoy the new playground equipment while being baked in the hot summer sun,” Josh Handler, a lead backer of the group, wrote in an email. “Reasonable alternatives to the playground renovations would preserve at least some of the existing trees — if NOVA Parks chooses to be flexible.”
Handler reiterated in the email that his concerns linger about how the removal of so many trees in favor of a new parking lot in the park’s upper half will impact stormwater on the site. But Gilbert believes that a cistern built underneath the new lot will adequately address those worries, arguing in his letter that the lot will “far exceed county building standards.”
“Upton Hill has long been a park with a combination of great natural resources and popular features for the public,” he wrote. “This balance will continue with these improvements, making for a great urban park.”
Ultimately, plans call for a new oak/hickory forest at the park, as well as a ropes course, renovated restrooms and a new ticket booth for its batting cage.
As part of an effort to expand Arlington’s tree canopy, the Department of Parks and Recreation will be giving away 400 trees for free this fall.
Arlington Residents can apply through the Parks and Recreation website to receive a “whip”; trees in two gallon containers ranging from two to four feet in size.
There are currently nine different types of trees available for pick up. There is a limit of one tree per residential property. Multi-family properties can contact the Tree Stewards organization to acquire more than one.
There will be two distribution days to pick up your trees.
- Sat., Oct. 20, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arlington County Nursery – 4240 S Four Mile Run Dr. 22206.
- Wed., Oct. 24, 3-6 p.m. Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden Parking Lot – 850 N Lexington St. 22205.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
Workers began cutting down a 114-foot-tall dawn redwood tree in front of a Williamsburg home today (Tuesday), just a few days after county officials announced they couldn’t find any way to save the tree and meet the demands of local conservationists.
Activists with the Arlington Tree Action Group told ARLnow that workers are now on-site at the property along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street, removing branches from the massive tree in preparation for removing it entirely.
The developer Richmond Custom Homes plans to demolish the single-family home on the lot, then build two more in its place, prompting the tree’s removal.
Yet environmentalists had hoped that the County Board might intervene to save the tree, recognized as one of the largest of its species by both the county and the state.
The dawn redwood is also located within a “Resource Protection Area,” given the tree’s proximity to a stream that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, giving them further hope that officials might be able to prevent the tree’s removal.
But the Board revealed last week (Aug. 15) that it felt it didn’t have any recourse to stop the tree’s removal and alter the property’s redevelopment, prompting condemnations from county conservationists.
Starting in the next few months, Upton Hill Regional Park is set to get a major makeover — but the process of sketching out plans for the renovation work is getting a bit messy.
Some neighbors and county conservationists see the whole project as poorly conceived and deceptively managed by NOVA Parks, the regional body that maintains Upton Hill. Plans to cut down 115 trees at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, strike them as a blow to both the country’s tree canopy and a disaster for stormwater runoff in the area.
But park officials, and even some of their fellow neighbors, feel these complaints have been blown entirely out of proportion, arguing that a few malcontents are lobbing bombs against a project that will transform a park sorely in need of a facelift.
The $3 million renovation work is set to proceed over the next year or more, and with a new petition urging NOVA Parks to re-think its plans, debate over the project seems sure to intensify moving forward.
“I look at this as a phenomenal upgrade to the community… and some of the arguments being made against it are beyond ridiculous,” said Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, where the park is located. “Eventually, we’re going to have to ask what’s more important: a couple of voices, or the safety of park-goers and this park’s future?”
Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, says his group last upgraded Upton Hill back in 2006, and decided back in 2015 to pursue some upgrades to the park.
Some of the planned changes are relatively uncontroversial: park officials hope to add a new ticket booth for the park’s batting cage, renovate some of its restrooms and build a new playground in the park’s lower half (Tighe compares the current playground there to “something out of a Stephen King horror movie.”)
The arguments start over proposed additions like a ropes course, a new entrance on Wilson Blvd complete with a small parking lot and 103 new parking spaces in Upton Hill’s upper half, near its water park.
The last item on that list has attracted the most controversy, as it would require the removal of more than half of the aforementioned 115 trees in favor of thousands of square feet of pavement — a group dubbing itself the “Friends of Upton Hill” wrote on its website that Joni Mitchell warned of just an occurrence when she sang “They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot.”
“NOVA Parks has never made a convincing case for expanding parking at Upton Hill, which has a parking lot that is barely used for nine months of the year, when the water park is closed,” said Sada Aksartova, a Boulevard Manor resident. Her husband, Josh Handler, helps run the friends group, which notes that many of the trees set to be chopped down are several decades old.
Yet Tighe argues the new parking will help ease crowds at the park, avoiding the need for so many people to park on the street, and Gilbert says there’s a bit more nuance to consider regarding the trees to be cut down.
Of the 115 trees to be removed, he says 19 trees are already dead, while 31 are non-native trees, which he feels don’t add much to the area’s ecosystem. He points out that he hopes to plant dozens of new trees, shrubs and grasses elsewhere on the park to create an “oak/hickory forest” that he believes will represent a net positive for the county’s tree canopy.
Local activist Suzanne Sundberg believes Gilbert’s thinking amounts to: “We must destroy a forest to save a forest.”
“It’s degrading a park that’s just a little postage stamp of green in an ocean of parking lots,” Sundberg said.
She also fears that removing so many trees and replacing them with asphalt will worsen the already substantial stormwater management problems in the area. The friends group posted a series of videos earlier this month illustrating how huge amounts of water already flow off the park’s grounds.
But Gilbert believes the underground cistern included in plans for the new parking lot will alleviate the stormwater problems in the area, rather than exacerbate them. Furthermore, he feels those videos are misleading, as they were taken just after a heavy rainstorm.
Certainly, Gilbert has plenty of problems with the way the Friends of Upton Hill have conducted themselves. He believes the group’s name is a “complete misnomer,” dubbing it “a couple of individuals with an ax to grind” and “not a true friend’s group.” He feels the community has been broadly supportive of the project.
“We’ve worked very hard to work with the various community groups, but that doesn’t mean every individual is going to get everything they want,” Gilbert said. “And some people can understand that and some people clearly don’t.”
Sundberg believes there are plenty of people upset with the project, pointing to the new petition and work of the Arlington Tree Action Group to oppose it. Furthermore, she says that “if there are, indeed, a low number of citizens who are outraged, it’s likely because they have no idea what the plans are.”
“This whole process has been very opaque,” Sundberg said. “NOVA Parks has gotten so used to doing whatever the heck it wants… it barely posts any documents or makes any information available about this.”
Tighe charges that park officials have been “phenomenal partners every step of the way.” Other neighbors, however, are taking more of a wait-and-see approach, rather than coming out so strongly in favor of the park.
“I understand the objections from some… even if some people may be exaggerating points to serve their own conclusions,” said Brian Hannigan, president of the nearby Dominion Hills Civic Association. “Let’s follow the facts and see where they lead.”
Despite some intense opposition from conservationists and the community, plans to chop down a massive dawn redwood tree in North Arlington are moving ahead.
Since April, a developer has been hoping to remove the 114-foot-tall tree as part of a larger project on a property along the 3200 block of N. Ohio Street in Williamsburg.
The county recently approved a permit to let that work move ahead, according to a community letter sent Wednesday (Aug. 15) by the County Board and provided to ARLnow. A county spokesman confirmed the letter’s veracity, and added that the developer “intends to move forward with removal of the tree.”
Environmentalists had hoped to save the dawn redwood, as it’s recognized as one of the largest of its species by both county and state officials, and it could live to be up to 600 years old if left in place. The tree also sits within a “Resource Protection Area,” known as an “RPA,” giving the county the chance to scrutinize these construction plans quite closely.
But the Board wrote in the letter that it just couldn’t find any way to justify denying the permit, citing the developer’s “considerable rights as a private property owner” to redevelop the site. Richmond Custom Homes is hoping knock down the existing single-family home on the property, and build two in its place, a tactic frequently favored by developers in Arlington’s residential neighborhoods.
“While staff did ask Richmond Custom Homes to explore options to preserve the tree, the developer could not identify a design that both provided for the subdivision of the property and preserved the dawn redwood,” the Board wrote. “Pushing the homes to the rear of the lots would impact other large trees on the property also located within the RPA — and likely still would have jeopardized the dawn redwood during construction.”
The Board did note, however, that the approved plan “does protect multiple large trees on the back end of the property, which provide a significant benefit to the watershed adjacent to the Little Pimmit Run stream,” pointing out that the developer also agreed to replace the trees removed during the construction.
Nevertheless, the whole process has left conservationists feeling like the county isn’t listening to their concerns.
“The county could find ‘no’ way to preserve this living fossil, which had become extinct in North America and worldwide millennia ago, with the exception of a few remaining trees located in China and the few planted here in an effort to save the species,” Suzanne Sundberg, a local activist focused on environmental issues, told ARLnow. “What does that tell you about the county ordinance?…County staff and the Board are not doing all that they could to preserve the mature tree canopy here in Arlington.”
The Arlington Tree Action Group was similarly critical of the Board, arguing in a statement that it “decided not to use the powers at its disposal in its own Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance” to contest the developer’s plans, making this a “landmark case.”
“In failing to make a decision in favor of the environment and the voices of concerned residents, the county puts at risk its own widely touted ‘progressive’ credentials in environmental protection,” the group wrote. “The letter does not provide reassurances of how the RPA, which runs the length of the lot, will be protected once the lot is subdivided. ATAG will be looking for answers.”
The Board noted in its letter that members “share community concerns about the significant pressures on mature trees from redevelopment of properties across the county” and plans to kick off the process of updating the county’s Urban Forest Master Plan and Natural Resources Management Plan early next year.
Tomorrow morning (Aug. 11), Arlington residents can participate in an “Extreme Champion Trees Bike Ride,” put on by the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation.
This ride will be more challenging than other Champion Trees Bike Rides, taking participants through “some of the hilliest, most calorie-burning, bike-safe roads of North Arlington,” per an event description.
Riders should bring their own bike, water, snacks and repair kit and plan to meet in Fort C.F. Smith Park‘s parking lot for a 9 a.m. start. The ride will go until noon.
Those interested can register for this free event online or by calling 703-228-4747. The bike ride is open to adults or teenagers 16 and up if they come with a registered adult.
Photo via Arlington County