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Arlington residents can now register to receive a free tree for their yards as part of an effort by the Department of Parks and Recreation to increase the county’s tree canopy.

Registration opened today (Tuesday) for young, slender trees known as “whips.” The whips are in two-gallon containers ranging from 2-4 feet in size.

“This annual program is very popular and has yielded many beautiful trees and benefited our community,” said the county. “The trees you plant are part of our mission to expand and enhance Arlington’s urban tree canopy.”

Residents will be able to pick up their trees at Bon Air Park or Barcroft Park in late October. County landscape staff and members of the Arlington/Alexandria Tree Stewards organization will be on-site to help residents choose their trees, answer questions and share tips on caring for them.

Available tree species include:

  • Black Gum
  • Red Cedar
  • Dogwood
  • Fringe tree
  • Hornbeam
  • Sweetbay Magnolia
  • Red Maple
  • Red Oak
  • White Oak
  • Redbud
  • River Birch
  • Sassafras
  • Serviceberry

The first pickup day is Saturday, Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of Tucker Field at Barcroft Park (4208 S. Four Mile Run Drive). The second is Tuesday, Oct. 26 from 4-6 p.m. in the rose garden parking lot at Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street).

One tree is offered per residential property.

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It’s not a good year to be an allergy sufferer.

“Allergy season in North America has been the lengthiest and the most severe in decades,” Axios reported yesterday. A number of factors are making allergies worse, from climate change lengthening the pollen-producing season to an overabundance of pollen-producing male trees in urban areas.

That’s not to mention added air pollution from western wildfires and the pandemic potentially leading to more outdoor activity.

Today, we’re asking how this year compares with last year those with seasonal allergies in Arlington. Is it worse, better, or about the same?

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A sugar maple has turned into a breathtaking wood-carved sculpture.

Local artist Andrew Mallon, known for similar artwork in the area, created the Greek mythological scene that shows when Daphne fled from Apollo and turned into a tree.

It’s on a side yard of Mary Maruca’s home on N. Park Drive, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood near Lubber Run Amphitheater.

“The decision to create the sculpture came as I wrestled with the pain of taking down the last of the three old trees that had lived in my yard before I bought my house,” she tells ARLnow.

Sugar maples can live for hundreds of years, and Maruca estimates this was one was a mere 80 years old. But an arborist diagnosed a fungus on it, so she needed to intervene due to its location between her and her neighbor’s homes.

Days before she was going to have the tree removed, she thought about turning it into a sculpture and reached out to Mallon. The timing seemed magical.

Maruca was always struck by illustrator Arthur Rackham’s depiction of Daphne’s escape, and Mallon did his own research, too. Mallon has turned dead and felled trees into sculptures of animals and more. He and Maruca collaborated with their ideas before the artist turned the tree into the art.

“After Andrew completed the sculpture, I also had a sense of another level of its significance — that it also made a state about times of change and what they require of us,” Maruca said. “Indeed, forms may change but beauty remains, and struggle is definitely part of that process.”

Though Daphne is depicted in a state of undress, unlike Rackham’s depiction Mallon gave her some strategic coverings, using meticulously sculpted leaves and part of the tree trunk. That should be more palatable to neighbors than the famous topless mermaid sculpture in Leeway-Overlee — the work of a Frederick, Md. sculptor — which attracted national media attention before being cut down in 2011.

Photos via Andrew Mallon/Facebook

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(Updated 4:55 p.m.) At 10:50 p.m. on Friday, Patrick McNair and his wife Danielle were getting ready to bed when they heard a crash. In a few seconds, the power went out.

Outside their home along the 4800 block of Old Dominion Drive, near Marymount University, they saw a mangled car starting to smoke.

“I put shoes on and ran as quickly as I could,” Patrick tells ARLnow.

By the time he got there, the car was so full of smoke he could not see in and no response came from inside when he knocked on the window. The door would not budge.

As he was bracing himself to break the window with his hand, he remembered his son’s baseball bat was in his car. Danielle unlocked the car and Patrick retrieved the bat and broke the window. He described the driver as unresponsive, with cuts, scrapes and what appeared to be a broken leg.

Another neighbor, Roger Casalengo, arrived and the two men managed to get the driver out of the car. They set her down 25 feet away and she revived enough to tell them no one else was in the car.

“At this point, the entire front of the hood is on fire, and all under the hood is on fire,” McNair said. “By the time she was laid down, the car was engulfed in an inferno and the tree was on fire.”

Looking back, McNair said if he and his wife had just walked to the car, or waited for the police to arrive, “she would have absolutely been burned alive.”

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said police were dispatched to the 4800 block of Old Dominion Drive at about 10:51 p.m.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver was traveling westbound on Old Dominion Drive when she allegedly lost control of the vehicle and collided with a fire hydrant, utility box, tree and utility pole,” Savage said.

She confirmed the role the two men played in saving the girl and said Arlington County Fire Department extinguished the vehicle.

“The driver was transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life-threatening,” Savage said.

After an investigation, the driver — who was under the age of 18 — was charged with driving after consuming alcohol.

On Saturday, McNair said he connected with the driver’s mother, who updated him on the two nights her daughter spent in the hospital, recovering.

“She was just in tears and very thankful for our efforts that we were able to save her daughter,” he said. “It was a very crazy event but we were thankful and happy to have gotten her out of there.”

Photos courtesy Patrick McNair and Michael Lindsay

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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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Morning Notes

School Reopening Protest Tonight — “Arlington parents frustrated by Arlington Public Schools’ unwillingness to add more in-person instructional days this school year will rally ahead of the next school board meeting to let their voices be heard… [from] 5:30-7 p.m., ahead of the next Arlington County School Board meeting.” [Press Release]

Arlington Gets ‘Tree City USA’ Designation — “The Arlington County government on April 30 will receive its 24th annual ‘Tree City USA’ designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation, honoring the community’s efforts in tree planting and preservation. The award will be presented at the county’s annual Arbor Day celebration, an affair downscaled due to the pandemic but slated to be held at Carlin Springs Elementary School.” [Sun Gazette]

County Thanks Vax Volunteers — “We want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the staff and volunteers at our vaccination sites. From supply chain management, to organizing a visitor line, to giving the shot itself, we’re grateful for this amazing crew for all they do to make it happen!” [Facebook]

Petition to Rename DCA Goes Viral — A Georgetown University freshman’s online petition to rename Reagan National Airport after teen singer, dancer and actor JoJo Siwa has received more than 3,000 votes. [Change.org, DCist]

Photo courtesy Leslie Koch

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Several Projects — “The Arlington County Board took action at its April meeting on a number of projects designed to invest in community development and improve infrastructure throughout the County. ‘The Board’s actions today invest in Arlington’s future through a flexible space for the arts, additional flexibility to allow for additional affordable housing, four neighborhood conservation projects, and infrastructure that improves our core utilities and provides essential services for our residents,’ County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.” [Arlington County]

Local Group’s Statement on Chauvin Verdict — Black Parents of Arlington issued a statement last night about the verdict in George Floyd’s murder: “This ‘justice’ system, while today handed down a verdict that provides accountability, cannot, and will not, ever restore justice. Justice is when a Black photographer can visit a client without being harassed by both neighbors and law enforcement. Justice is when a pregnant Black woman can deliver her baby with dignity, and not in the captivity of an Arlington County jail.” [Press Release]

More Students Taken Off In-Person Waitlists — “In response to the CDC’s 3-foot distancing update, schools have continued to accommodate more students in person, and nearly half of all APS schools have cleared their waitlists. So far in April, nearly 1,000 students have been added for in-person instruction, and we are working through the remaining students as capacity allows. Additionally, more classes at the elementary level have now transitioned into one classroom, versus the previous split classes.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Candidates Want More APS Transparency — “The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for School Board say there’s one tangible thing the county school system can do immediately in an effort to address seemingly intractable achievement disparities. Let the sunshine in. The way to address achievement gaps ‘is to know that they’re there – bring them out into the light.'” [Sun Gazette]

Fundraising Advantage for Incumbents — “Two Arlington legislators facing intra-party challenges from their left are maintaining healthy cash-on-hand totals headed toward June 8 primary showdowns. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) ended the first quarter with $120,853 in his campaign account, while challenger Matt Rogers had $13,180, according to filings with the Virginia Department of Elections… In the 49th District, Del. Alfonso Lopez ended the quarter with $131,117 on hand compared to $30,990 for educator Karishma Mehta.” [Sun Gazette]

County Board Recognizes ‘Notable’ Trees — “Arlington has more than 750,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $1 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff, and are valued at $1.41 billion total. On Tuesday, April 20, 32 of these trees will be designated as Notable Trees by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Local Park Volunteers Honored — “The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20. Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.” [Arlington County]

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with a project to restore Donaldson Run Tributary B despite some vocal public opposition.

On Tuesday, the County Board voted 4-1 to award a $1.5 million contract to restore a segment of the stream beginning at N. Upton Street and extending about 1,400 feet downstream to where it meets with Donaldson Run Tributary A in Zachary Taylor Park. Takis Karantonis cast the dissenting vote.

The vote came after a handful of locals criticized the proposed project for sacrificing trees, as well as allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars and ignoring changing scientific opinions.

With the vote, the county will use an approach similar to the one taken in 2006 to restore Donaldson Run Tributary A.

The project will address “critical infrastructure, public safety and environmental threats,” the county said. It “will stabilize the stream’s eroding banks to protect existing stream valley infrastructure, including the threatened water main and sanitary sewer, which crosses the stream and runs parallel to it.”

Staff said 83 trees will be axed as part of the project, which has been in the works since 2004.

Board Chair Matt de Ferranti told public speakers he agreed with many of their points but he is ultimately supporting what county staff recommended.

“We need to work on impervious cover and climate change but we also lost more than 20 trees since 2017 due to some of the washout that has come,” he said.

Critics weren’t convinced.

The restoration of Tributary A “failed miserably,” said Rod Simmons, who said he worked on the project and argued that it actually made flooding and runoff worse. Those recommending a different solution say theirs is cheaper, less intensive, and will save more trees.

“I am heart-sick at the devastation of the Donaldson Run ecosystem that will result from this project but I am even more distressed at the systemic discounting of the importance and integrated nature of the unique ecosystems in Arlington such as Donaldson Run,” said Mary Glass, a local resident. “For more than a decade, concerned citizens have provided valuable information on the adverse impact of this project and constructive alternatives to reach the same results…It’s a shame that despite all of this, no significant modification has occurred.”

Karantonis argued that the area needs restoration but 83 felled trees is too high a price.

“I don’t think we did everything we could to minimize impact,” he said.

But Jason Papacosma, the watershed programs manager for Arlington County, said the method suggested by the advocates is not applicable to the “very high-energy environment” of Donaldson Run.

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Morning Notes

Statements of Support for AAPI Community — “Arlington Public Schools condemns racism and all expressions of hate, bias and discrimination. The horrific shootings in Atlanta earlier this week are a tragic reminder of the increase in violent attacks, hate speech and discrimination targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We grieve with the families of the victims of the shootings in Atlanta on March 16 and share the sorrow of all who stand against hate and discrimination.” [Arlington Public Schools, Press Release]

Opposition to Zoning Proposal — “The proposal has nevertheless attracted some pushback from Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, a community group that has begun organizing opposition to the county’s housing efforts on the grounds that Arlington hasn’t properly prepared for additional growth… Other affected neighborhoods, including Green Valley in South Arlington, also offered opposition.” [Washington Business Journal]

Citizen Group Wants Tree Update — “‘Don’t call us, but we promise we’ll call you’ appears to sum up the Arlington County government’s reaction to an Arlington County Civic Federation call for an expeditious effort to update an analysis of the county’s tree canopy… The Arlington government last conducted a tree inventory in 2016, reporting the findings in 2017. The roughly 750,000 trees in the county’s 26 square miles cover about 41 percent of the county’s ground area.” [Sun Gazette]

Chainsaw Art Coming to Lyon Park — “This summer, Mallon is scheduled to do chainsaw sculptures on three stumps trees near the community center in Arlington’s Lyon Park, a community-owned park in the county. Mallon, who grew up in Arlington, said he usually brings about five chainsaws to a project, depending on the level of detail of the work.” [Patch]

GOP Gov. Candidate in Arlington — Glenn Youngkin, a Republican candidate for governor, made a campaign appearance at the Crystal City Sports Pub over the weekend. The event was criticized by Democrats for its crowd of maskless supporters. [Twitter, Twitter]

Airport Passenger Volume Going Up — “TSA screened 1,543,115 people yesterday, Sunday, March 21. The last time checkpoint throughput topped 1.5 million was March 15, 2020.” [Twitter]

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The Arlington County Board is slated to review a restoration project for Donaldson Run Tributary B next week.

The Board is scheduled to vote at its Tuesday meeting on whether to award a $1.5 million contract to restore a segment of the stream beginning at N. Upton Street and extending about 1,400 feet downstream to where it meets with Donaldson Run Tributary A in Zachary Taylor Park, according to a county report.

The project will address “critical infrastructure, public safety and environmental threats,” the county said. It “will stabilize the stream’s eroding banks to protect existing stream valley infrastructure, including the threatened water main and sanitary sewer, which crosses the stream and runs parallel to it.”

This restoration project has been in the works since 2004 when the Donaldson Run Civic Association designated it a priority Neighborhood Conservation project, according to a county website. The project received funding in 2007 and the county completed its plans for restoration in February 2020 after a lengthy design and public engagement process.

In the intervening years, erosion and storm damage, including the July 2019 flash flood, have gouged out the banks, uncovering a 30″ water main and sanitary sewer line, which triggered emergency repairs. The two forces have also felled about 20 trees along the tributary since 2017.

This erosion “threatens the Zachary Taylor hike-bike trail and public safety and is undermining streambank trees,” the staff report said. “Sediment eroded from the stream has accumulated downstream, compromising the integrity of a prior stream project, the Donaldson Run Tributary A project completed in 2006.”

According to the county website, the project also aims to help the reduce pollution, protect the multi-use trail and restore native vegetation to the area, described as “overrun” with invasive plants such as kudzu and English ivy.

About 83 trees will be removed during the project. In their place, 332 native trees, 180 shrubs, 200 live stakes — cuttings that will grow into trees — and more than 4,000 herbaceous plants will be planted, a county spokeswoman said.

The county says it will use a technique called “natural stream channel design” to create a new stream channel that can better manage the runoff it receives from the surrounding land.

Some critics, however, oppose the chosen restoration method as well as the resultant tree removal. The Arlington Tree Action Group said the project has not been updated to account for climate change and new sustainability goals. Over the last few years, the group has voiced its opposition to the number of trees that could be axed.

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If you have a Christmas tree in your house — a real one, like 44% of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll — you’ll need to keep it watered for at least the next week.

Arlington County is not beginning its annual Christmas tree collection until Monday, Jan. 4. The two-week curbside collection will run through Friday, Jan. 15.

Residential waste collection customers — primarily those in single-family homes — will have trees collected on their regular trash collection day. Residents of apartments, condos and townhomes can drop trees off at the county’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington.

Collected trees will be turned into mulch and reused throughout the county.

More from the county website:

Trees collected by the County the first two full weeks of January are turned into mulch available from County facilities.

From Jan. 4 through Jan. 15, place trees at curb no later than 6 a.m. on your regular trash collection day after removing ALL decorations, nails, stands. Do not place trees in plastic bags.

After Jan. 15, Christmas trees are handled at curbside as part of regular year-round yard waste collection. Make sure the tree is bare and ready for composting. Trees over 8-feet long will need to be dismantled.

Tree Drop-Off

Residents without regular curbside pickup, including those living in townhomes, apartments and condominiums, can bring Christmas trees to the Solid Waste Bureau’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington. For safe dropoff, call 703-228-5000 Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. to schedule a weekday appointment. You will need proof of residence in Arlington to drop off.

Photo via Arlington County

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