Joli McCathran [ chair ], Ann Briggs, Don Henninger, Peter Kollasch, Tom Land, Jenny Long, Jean Myers, Carol Uhlendorf, Ted Yachup
All the members, requested by the Mayor to serve on the Tree Advisory Committee, have feelings for the appearance, health, safety, and future of trees in our community. While differences of opinion may exist in the way each would approach the care of trees and forest, a feeling of unity and a dedication to the future to trees and forest health exists in all who serve on this committee. The town budget over the course of the last 10 to 14 years has increased to cover the expanding costs of tree care and removal. Almost every year the town removes 3 to 5 large canopy trees. Some of these trees are removed because they are dead or dying. Some are removed because root systems are invasive and are damaging structural foundations. Still others fall over in storms. The price to remove a tree is in direct proportion to its size and location with respect to power lines and/or houses. Generally, expenses in the range of $1200 to $2000 can be expected to take down a large oak. With these costs it is easy to see how the budget can be stretched in a year when 5 trees need to be removed. The loss of some of these trees is hardly felt in some areas, while in others it is immediately apparent. Within the residential areas of town, the loss is compounded by the fact that most of the trees that are dying are the ancient oaks. Some of these trees have been around for the better part of 250 years. When we talk about the net loss of trees, we sometimes lost sight of these observations. Cutting them down is easy. Saving them is the hard part. They continue to survive under stressful conditions, some created by man, others by nature, and still we expect them to live to old age.
Without our large trees, this town would lose much of its historic charm as the trees give many homes their character, charm and uniqueness. The trees in our town are one of the reasons this site was selected for religious meetings over 125 years ago. Some of the trees still standing predate the earliest community by at least twice, and in some cases three times. Indeed, these very trees are the prime reason why our town is called "A Town Within a Forest".
Over the years many groups have endeavored to preserve the wooded areas for residents who would come after them. This committee is providing ideas and recommending options that could continue this stewardship for future residents of Washington Grove.
Mayor John Compton provided the following set of charges to be discussed, researched and answered by the committee:
A set of additional charges, taken from the text of the Mayor's letter, includes the following:
The terms below represent the common understanding among the Committee members in the preparation of this report:
The committee believes that in addition to the monetary value of our trees, the intrinsic value of trees in our town cannot be overstated. Since the community was begun, trees have been an integral part of day-to-day living. It may be difficult for some to put into words the power of these majestic giants and the collective and individual effect they have upon us. We marvel at the closeness of many of these giants to our lives and homes. We mourn them when they die, relish the shade they provide during the summer, marvel at their fall colors and admire the beauty of bare snow-covered limbs in winter.
While the Committee recognizes that the Town has no authority to manage on private land, the fact that natural systems do not respect private or public ownership lines, suggests that any management philosophy affecting the entire Town must involve interaction between the Town and individual property owners.. It is the purpose of this report to identify a management philosophy and an approach that will allow the Town and individual landowners to participate in its implementation.
The death of the tree canopy is the result of trees reaching the end of their expected life span, further influenced by man-induced management and natural environmental stresses. Specifically, the Town's trees are dealing with atmospheric pollution, drought, pest infestation and other negative influences.
Invasive pests seem to arrive on American shores almost daily.. One of the latest is the Asian long horned beetle. This pest preys on trees like maples and fruit trees. Currently there is no way to eradicate the beetle once established. Gypsy moth problems also persist. In February 2000, the Maryland Department of Agriculture conducted a Gypsy moth egg case count on Town trees. In isolated areas the count was estimated at over 6,000 per acre and in other areas 1,000 per acre. Trees do not die directly from Gypsy moth infestation; they may succumb from complications resulting from the infestation.
Some trees are being harmed by management stresses. Many public tracts of land within the Town include trees growing in lawn-maintain ed areas. A direct consequence of the policy has been soil compaction, damage to trunks and exposed roots by mowing machines. Additionally, attempting to grow grass where the desired result is to grow trees is counterproductive especially in times of extended drought. Grasses absorb moisture before it reaches tree roots. The concept of mowed grass is incompatible and unsustainable over long periods if maintenance of the canopy is a priority.
Environmental stresses, such as drought, are having detrimental effects on the health of trees. For the last several years this problem appears to have contributed to the death of five to six mature trees per year.
Invasive plants pose a considerable threat. One has to look at the problem created by Wisteria vines that are strangling young and mature trees at the corner of McCauley Street and Grove Road to appreciate the depth of the problem. Examples of other invasive plants are English Ivy and Ailanthus. Mimosa trees and bamboo are two varieties of plants that tend to take over and dominate rather than complement a forest environment.
Determining the value of older trees is difficult. The Committee debated relative costs and benefits of spending money to maintain old trees. It was questioned whether any effort should be made to save older trees, preferring to spend available funds for planting under trees nearing the end of their natural life span. Others differ in opinion. Historically little has been done. Recently there have been three occasions when work was performed to prolong the life of trees, and as of this fall (1999) all three trees were still alive. The expense for this work cost approximately $3,000 over a 14-year period, averaging to $214 per year for all 3 trees, or $71 per tree annually. A fourth tree was partially vertically mulched in an attempt to extend its life. The result has yet to be determined. While time consuming, vertical mulching has shown to be an effective method to address compacted and nutrient deprived soil.
At least two tree inventories were attempted in the past. Much effort went toward gathering information that was never utilized. The wisdom of compiling a tree inventory was questioned. It was suggested that a tree inventory is an effective tool for managing trees.
The Committee decided that with current computer technology it is possible to identify trees, determine the overall health of both individual trees and of the forest as a whole, ascertain which trees need pruning/trimming, note hazards, and determine if trees are worthy of extra effort if showing signs of stress. The issue of responsibility should not be overlooked. A record of when and what maintenance activities the Town has undertaken validates the Town's responsible performance.
The Town has been fortunate in having a Forestry Committee. The Forestry Committee has assisted in choosing locations for planting trees and shrubs, making decisions on treatment to eradicate Gypsy moths, determining policy, and making recommendations to the Mayor and Council. Much good work has come out of the Forestry Committee but the individuals making these decisions have not been "tree experts".
Arborists offer professional guidance on issues of disease, hazards and treatment, and make recommendations on when a tree should be removed. They make recommendations on replacement trees and offer advice on species appropriate for given areas. An arborist could help the Town in expanding educational programs. The Town should investigate whether it is more advantageous to hire a tree firm, who could offer the services of a licensed arborist, or an independent licensed arborist. Another approach is to more fully utilize the services of state foresters, the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission, the University of Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources, etc. The Town should keep itself open to all resources.
The goals considered, discussed and agreed to by the committee have been assigned a priority for implementation. The goals are summarized here by priority. Specific recommendations, with discussion, follow under the appropriate goal.
|Priority Goal I||Preserve the forest canopy|
|Priority Goal II||More effectively and aggressively manage public trees|
|Priority Goal III||Develop a planting program|
|Priority Goal IV||Educate the Town residents about the value of the forest through various programs|
|Priority Goal V||Remove invasive plants that post a threat to Town trees|
As has been stated, the canopy of trees over our town has determined much of our character over the years. While underplanting the older trees, well in advance of their ultimate demise is necessary, work should be programmed to do what is reasonable to prolong the life of older trees.
A minimum of a 12-foot diameter of mulch around the base of (particularly) larger trees can aid in moisture retention, and has the added benefit of keeping the mowing machines away from the base and roots of these trees, reducing soil compaction. [footnote: In the past there was some fear about using "raw mulch," (can be acquired at no cost) from recently ground up trees. It has now been shown that raw mulch does not deplete nitrogen from the soil as first thought when placed around trees.]
Retain a dedicated arborist for optimum continuity of preserving and maintaining the forest environment. The Arborist will check for hazards, disease, and overall health and determine a plan of treatment or removal when needed.
The proposed tree inventory, properly maintained, offers many real benefits to the Town.
The tree inventory will be a tool to better understand and ehance knowledge of forest environment.
The inventory would include but not be limited to:
Tracking diversity of trees;
Tracking maintenance performed on trees;
Mapping tree installations;
Providing a historical record to track trends and response.
Recommend on an annual basis, planting of stock to foster new growth as well as planting of replacement trees. These areas should include walkways and parkland areas. The Forestry Committee should identify possible candidates for transplanting within Town.
Diversity of plantings is important; monocultures should be avoided. With the number of diseases and pests threatening trees, diversity should be the rule. While it is understood that the prevailing trees of significant size are oaks, other trees indigenous to this area should be included in any planting program. Evergreens, including conifers, should also be encouraged for planting for their winter appeal, stately appearance and visual barrier.
For visual interest and to maintain the forest environment, consideration should be given to planting understory trees. Suggestions include:
While not under the mandate of the Mayor for this report, it is suggested that some consideration be given to planting more decorative shrubbery. Many areas are suitable for inclusion in this program.
The Town, through the Forestry Committee, should promote and educational process for adults and children. The Town should begin programs informing the citizens of actions they can do to foster the continued maintenance, and replacement, of trees in the community.
The packet should offer guidelines for tree care, shade gardening, and recommendations in the selection of planting material and guidelines for proper placement of plant material. Education of the citizens with emphasis on the benefits of trees in the community is a priority. These benefits include, but are not limited to, the cooling effects during summer, value trees add to property, and the inherent beauty of different tree species at different stages of growth for future generations to appreciate.
This would aid in restoring the original purpose of the nursery. Develop a procedure for identifying trees in the arboretum/nursery that are ready for removal and notify residents about the availability of such trees for planting on private property. All transplants would need to be approved by the Forestry Committee.
If the Town retains the services of an arborist, that individual should attend designated town meetings for the purpose of issuing a supplemental educational report to the general Forestry Committee report.
The Forestry Committee should avail itself of the many programs and educational opportunities available from federal, state and local governments that could aid in dealing with some of the issues on a regular basis. Some of these groups are listed below:
Arbor Day activities could include a talk with the Town's arborist.
This program might prove very effective in times of drought to aid Town Maintenance with watering trees.
As part of the Town bulletin, the Forestry Committee should offer monthly tree information with suggestions on tree care and information about the Town's forests. Suggestions include, but not limited to:
To look at an oak tree, it is difficult to imaging something capable of literally strangling the life from it, and yet this is the plight of some of the oaks in Town.
Wisteria is overrunning some areas in the Town's forests. While beautiful in its own right, it has no place in the Town's forests. The committee believes that every effort should be made to remove this vine from areas where it poses a threat to existing trees.
English Ivy, a perennially green vine, somewhat attractive, is the perfect hiding place for Gypsy Moth egg cases.
While fine on a wall, it should be removed from all trees in Town.
[Footnote: Care should be exercised in removing the vine from trees as they can suffer from sunscald when the vine is removed. The recommended removal technique is to cut the vine at ground level, let the vine die and after approximately a year remove dead vines from trunks of trees.]
Ailanthus tree-of-heaven is an import and should be removed. This tree spreads most commonly by a spreading, strong root system, and once established, is extremely difficult to eradicate except by using powerful herbicides and poisons. Sometimes the roots can be removed, but this is no guarantee that the plant won't show up again. This tree can currently be found in Town. Left on its own it may push out more desirable trees.
Mimosa is generally thought of as a yard tree. It gained popularity in the last century for its airy appearance and sweet smelling, attractive flowers. Mimosa spreads easily and should be avoided and removed.
Bamboo easily can take over an area. This fast growing grass would take over the area in front of the Maintenance Building were it not for the mowing on a continuous basis. Bamboo spreads through a vigorous root system and is very difficult to control.
Kudzu, while not currently growing in Town, it should be watched for and eradicated immediately if found.
|Preserve the forest canopy|
|More effectively and aggressively manage public trees|
|Develop a planting program|
|Educate the Town residents about the value of the forest through various programs that involve adults and children|
||High / Medium||Low|
|Remove invasive plants that post a threat to Town trees|
In our discussions the idea of the first preserve areas kept surfacing. Some thought it impossible to write about just the forest environment in the residential area without including/offering some suggestions on the future use and preservation of the areas within the forest preserve. While not used by all residents of Town, these forests provide many benefits. Chiefly there is the issue of providing a Town buffer in the form of 50 acres on both the east and west sides of Town. One only has to look at the tracts of housing and apartments on the limits of Town to appreciate the fact that these buffer zones exist.
These wooded areas protect the Town from visual intrusions. These woods contribute to cooling, water retention and provide a sanctuary for birds and wildlife.
For the most part the Committee thinks these areas should remain unmanaged. There are, however, exceptions.
In the West Woods the area abutting Town Crest Apartments is in regular need of attention. People living in these apartments dispose of drained oil, old furniture and trash simply by throwing them into the woods. While there is a channel of communication open between the Town and the Town Crest management office, additional work needs to be done to educate/coerce the management office to aid in preserving this section of the woods. It is possible to enlist the aid of personnel from the State Office of Pollution Control in this effort, particularly in the areas of oil disposal as it directly affects the waters flowing to the Chesapeake Bay. Scouts could perhaps be enlisted to aid in cleaning up this area, as could youth from Town.
Many of us think of ourselves as being protected by the trees. They represent character, are graceful and beautiful, and are living expressions of entities which will out-live all of us. We, also, over the course of time have attempted to foster and maintain in some limited fashion the forest within the town and thereby preserve, "A Town Within a Forest" Entering the Grove feels like coming home. It touches an unidentifiable place deep inside that speaks of history, safety, and comfort. How can we not affirm the ways in which our trees are a part of and touch our lives?
Roy McCathran, the Town's first mayor, referred poetically to Washington Grove as "a town within a forest, an oasis of tranquility and a rustic jewel in the diadem of the great free state of Maryland."
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