You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, as Bob Dylan once put it.
And you don’t need an urban forester to know that while the Arlington government may plant its share of trees, it hasn’t always maintained those saplings to survive from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
“A few years ago, that was an epidemic issue,” County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey acknowledged, before saying there had been “some steps taken to improve outcomes.”
But have the outcomes actually improved? From the vantage point of those like Elizabeth Grossman, maybe not so much.
“The county is not taking adequate care of its newly planted trees,” said Grossman, a member of the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG), who said that while there were many reasons trees may not survive after being planted, the death rate on Arlington government property seems excessive.
She pointed to five trees planted last year along Park Drive near Arlington Boulevard on county land in Arlington Forest. Four of the five already are dead, Grossman said.
“Taxpayer dollars and county resources have been wasted,” she said, urging the county government to focus more on obtaining healthy tree specimens that are appropriate for their sites and then providing “the care these trees need to thrive.”
Dorsey, who at times over the past few years had been a sparring partner with ATAG on tree issues, acknowledged that the government’s efforts “maybe [are] not achieving the results we desire,” before tossing the hot potato into the lap of County Manager Mark Schwartz.
Schwartz agreed with the premise that an excessive death rate of recently planted trees would represent an organizational failure.
“We can talk a lot about grand plans, but at the end of the day, if we aren’t doing a good job of maintaining what we have that is growing and alive, all those plans are for naught,” the county manager said.
Schwartz said residents who see trees on county-government property that appear to be in distress can file a report on the government Website, www.arlingtonva.us. “We follow up on that within 24 hours,” he said.
There are an estimated 750,000 trees dotted across Arlington, or about three for every resident. Whether the tree canopy has been growing, dropping or staying steady in recent years remains an open question, with ATAG, the county government and outside observers all having different interpretations of the available data.