Arlington County is best known for its historical monuments and close proximity to Washington, D.C. It is home to The Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery and Old Town Alexandria. However, it is also home to thousands of unique trees and the dedicated stewards that care for them.
Since 1987, Arlington residents have honored the community’s diverse collection of arbor-life through the Arlington County Notable Tree Awards Program. This program was established to recognize the environmental impact of trees and increase awareness of environmental conservation efforts.
This year’s champions include a white oak, a Japanese cedar and a ponderosa pine tree. Certificates were awarded to trees on private residences and plaques were given to trees in parks and public spaces.
One steward of a certificate-winning white oak, Lee Garvey, nominated his tree to receive recognition for the white oak that has shaded the front yard of his property for over 100 years.
“I have lived in the shade of the tree for many years. On a hot day the temperature difference is ten degrees cooler beneath the tree and consequently we are able to live comfortably in the house year-round without central air conditioning,” he said.
Garvey frequently looks upon the white oak with fondness. He reminisces over the years it served as a shady place for him to play growing up, as well as what it might have meant to previous generations of children that attended the former elementary school across the street.
“Newcomers to Arlington can’t help but recognize that this is a place of history and significance, and one that appreciates the gifts that nature bestows upon us in trees. The awards program might help to keep that tradition alive—not to mention the benefits to the environment of having citizens think positively about preserving and promoting trees,” he said.
The program is hosted by the Department of Parks and Recreation and has honored hundreds of trees since its inception. Vincent Verweij is the Arlington County Urban Forestry Manager and a judge for the awards.
“Arlington residents greatly appreciate the character of its urban forest and felt the need in the 1980s to provide added exposure to large and unusual trees throughout the county,” he said.
The program does not offer any legal protection to the trees but does help homeowners recognize their value—environmental value, that is.
According the Arlington County Board website, trees contribute “$6.89 million in environmental benefits to the County annually.”
“Arlington’s trees reduce about 10.7 million cubic feet of storm and floodwater runoff each year,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey.
The awards have drawn increased interest over the years and it is representative of Arlington County’s dedication to preservation and beautification of its unique, natural environment. The full list of winners can be found on the Arlington County website and nomination forms for next year’s awards will become available in the fall.