Arlington Urban Forestry Commission chairman

Nora Palmatier chairs the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission.

Finding itself in the throes of a public tug-of-war over whether the local tree canopy is rising or falling, the Arlington County government on April 24 celebrated a new crop of “notable trees.”

The 28 additions to the pantheon bring to more than 300 the total number chosen since the program was initiated in 1987.

Trees are selected for their size, age, species or historic/community significance, with the final cut made by the Urban Forestry Commission.

Celebrating Arlington trees is important, because infill development is denuding some areas, said Nora Palmatier, who heads the commission.

“We have so many little neighborhoods that are suffering extreme tree damage – certain blocks have lost 15 or more percent,” Palmatier said.

In remarks, Palmatier alluded to the recent controversy over whether Arlington’s tree canopy has been growing. The county government earlier this year distributed a report contending that tree cover has risen slightly in recent years, while the Arlington Tree Action Group, an environmental consortium, has questioned the findings.

John Vihstadt, who serves as County Board liaison to the Urban Forestry Commission, said all sides are aiming for the same end result.

“We’re constantly working to sustain and augment” tree coverage, Vihstadt said. “We’re working hard, all of us.”

Designation as a “notable tree” is honorary in nature; it does not confer any special protections on trees on the list.

Eight trees will receive special commemorative plaques to showcase their designation in 2018: a black oak at 1318 North Harrison St.; a catalpa at 933 20th Street South; a pin oak at 2433 North Quantico St.; a willow oak at 929 North Potomac St.; an American holly at 4534 19th Street North; a pitch pine at 1224 North Dinwiddie Street; a silver maple at 6000 27th Road North; and a willow oak at 2411 North Monroe St.

Owners of properties where an additional 20 honored trees are located received certificates noting their selection.


(2) comments

John Vihstadt is barking up the wrong tree when he says the County is working hard to save trees. The only thing that the County is working hard at is massive infill development which not only gentrifies neighborhoods but also eliminates trees--not only on the development site but as Suzanne Sundburg pointed out on the lots of nearby schools.

Suzanne Smith Sundburg

It's important to remember that notable tree status provides no protections for the tree. (See The same is true for "champion" trees. The only county program that confers protections for the tree is the "specimen" tree designation. There are only 26 specimen trees within Arlington County, which are protected against injury or removal under the county's Tree Preservation Ordinance. See

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