Rebuilding the tree canopy

Rebuilding the tree canopy
Allison Silberberg, Lynn Gas, Jane Seward, Scott Knudsen, and Lyn Gubser, former North Ridge Citizens Association President

By Missy Schrott |

Fed up with the declining tree canopy in their North Ridge neighborhood, long-time residents Lynn Gas and Jane Seward orchestrated a project to plant more than 100 trees.

After six months of organizing, promoting and carrying out the Canopy Tree Restoration Campaign, they put the first trees in the ground on Monday.

The two women took matters into their own hands after years of being frustrated with their neighborhood’s tree loss. Both have been Beverley Hills residents for more than 30 years and have witnessed their neighborhood lose half of its tall trees from a combination of disease, weather and insects.

“This neighborhood is very special,” Gas said. “People are very neighborly and generous towards one another. Yes, this is my tree, but this is also a neighborhood tree.”

The duo’s plan was met with overwhelming approval when they presented it to the North Ridge Neighborhood Association. The association’s president, Jeanne Snapp, was one of the volunteers who went door-to-door promoting the project and selling trees to residents.

“We really didn’t need to spend any energy convincing anyone about the benefits of this project,” Seward said.

Mayor Allison Silberberg, who has also promoted efforts to extend Alexandria’s tree coverage, expressed support for the campaign. She plans to use Gas and Seward’s project as a model for other citizen associations and neighborhood groups.

“I’m really thrilled and give total credit to North Ridge and their incredible determination to make a difference in their neighborhood,” Silberberg said. “Each of us in our neighborhoods can make a difference. Every one of us can participate in this.”

By the end of June, the campaign had sold 139 trees, ranging in price from $250 to $325. The campaign was able to partner with Country Springs Nursery for wholesale tree prices and get discounted landscaping services from Rosemont Landscapers, a local company based in Del Ray.

The neighborhood has had tree planting initiatives before, but Seward said these “parking lot sales” were not very successful because they required buyers to do the transporting and planting, and the trees were small.

Gas and Seward combatted these issues in the Canopy Tree Restoration Campaign by including moving, planting and mulching services in the cost of the trees and by buying trees that were already tall. Coming in 10 to 14 gallon containers, the trees will range from eight to 12 feet tall, depending on species.

“Most people move to this neighborhood because they love the canopy trees,” Seward said. “Canopy trees soar over the houses and, you know, they make our rather modest houses really beautiful.”

Both Gas and Seward said their favorite part of the project was the positive neighborhood response and getting to know people through a common purpose.

“It was really a neighborhood effort,” Seward said.

Even neighbors who were unable to support a tree on their own property were willing to make donations so that others could. Twenty of the trees that will be planted were paid for by donations.

“We would run across younger couples that, you know, they really wanted a tree but maybe their air conditioner broke and they couldn’t afford it. Or elderly people really wanted it, but were living on a fixed income,” Gas said.

Gas fondly recounted a story of a woman who donated $1,000 worth of trees and requested that two of them go to a specific house.

“But don’t tell them it was me,” she told Gas and Seward.

The next step for Gas and Seward once all of the trees are planted over the next two weeks is to put together and distribute a tree maintenance sheet. They said one of the reasons some trees had become diseased was poor upkeep. They hoped to avoid this with the new trees by educating buyers.