Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Treekeepers work fast to help10 second row trees

Restore Mass Ave volunteer Treekeepers gather for 2 hour workshops to help at-risk trees. We welcomed four new Treekeepers Saturday Sept 16. The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies was well represented thanks to Board Member and Yale alumna Lindsey K. Larson. (We welcome new signups on our Volunteer page.)

Back row L to R: Max Lambert, Paul, Winters, Nora Hawkins, Kevin Finneran

Front row L to R: Deborah Shapley, Karen Peterson, Lindsey Larson

Photo:  RMA Board member Marty Scherr








Right: Lindsey & Kevin
carry away stakes that braced the little trees against the wind for 2 years. Now the trees are strong enough to stand on their own.

Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) 'Wildfire' was chosen for the prominent point at 30th and Mass.  In fall 40,000 motorists passing daily will see its brilliant red foliage announcing the majestic row.

Left: Karen Peterson consults with the group on cutting little roots at the base of this tree. Since they could weaken it, she snip-snipped.


 Back Story: In 2014 the State Department Office of Foreign Missions decided to green the empty lawns with a second row of trees. Casey Trees designed the planting aided by RMA. 
Right: RMA's Kevin Finneran posing in the exact corner in need of a prominent tree, in 2014. 

In 2011, Casey Citizen Forester Gary McNeil paced these lawns seeking the original linden row from 1904.
Below: Gary measures for replacements;
the mysterious finger code shows which tree.
       
Further down: Casey Trees' planting and design. ⬇
Led by Jim Woodworth, Casey Trees installed the ten second row trees in December 2014.
Left: Planters at work. Right: How to lay out a double row design, from our award-winning book A Grand Avenue Revival: Massachusetts Avenue Landscape History & Design Guide. Pdf here.

Photos and image: RMA    
A BIT MORE:
  • The land we planted on is city land known as "parking." How a second row in the "parking" helps neighbors and the city is on RMA's second row page.
  • 3003 Mass was the Residence of the Ambassador of Iran. 3005 Mass is the former Embassy of Iran. Since 1979 when the United States broke relations with Iran over its seizure of US diplomats as hostages, these properties have been in the custody of Department of State Office of Foreign Missions.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Giant Step for Tree Plaza at Dupont Circle

Restore Mass Ave's vision for a Tree Plaza - a grove of shade trees to replace the barren sidewalk where Massachusetts Avenue meets Dupont Circle - just took a giant step towards reality. 

RMA has contracted with Designgreen LLC, a firm expert in "green engineering," to investigate the site and seek funding to design and build the Tree Plaza with public or private funds.  Neglected for decades, the 7,100 square feet of public sidewalk adjoins the PNC Bank. It has closed-off steps to the old trolley tunnel and two struggling trees.

Yet thousands of workers, residents and tourists walk there daily. The Capitol BikeShare station there is one of three busiest in the city. Steps away is the Metro Red Line Dupont North exit, used by 10,500 riders each weekday. At least 18,000 vehicles pass daily, spewing exhaust. Ground-level air is hot and hard to breathe even in mild weather.

"This site is a wonderful location to showcase a sustainable green retrofit," says Rebecca C. Stack, the Designgreen principal.  
 
A number of city agencies make grants to local groups to retrofit paved areas to lower storm runoff into city drains and rivers.  The District needs to capture more stormwater and cool ground-level air in order to meet federal water and air standards.  RMA's Tree Plaza project likely qualifies for such funding.


Restore Mass Ave has tried for years to get a city agency to take ownership of the problem, to no avail. RMA also found that no other Dupont group has plans for the site. Yet the community wants the site transformed.

In 2015 the Leo A Daly architecture firm created a concept plan and renderings to show the RMA Tree Plaza vision (below). Now Designgreen's expertise in engineering, storm water management, and city programs can make it happen. RMA may enlist partners to carry out the project.

Robin Diener, President of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, says: "In the absence of city leadership, DCCA is thrilled that RMA has taken the lead in figuring out how to turn this site into a welcoming shaded community space.
   
"DCCA welcomes Designgreen as the catalyst for making it happen," Diener says.

Go here for RMA Tree Plaza press release and testimony by RMA President Deborah Shapley.

Image of Dupont Tree Plaza Leo A Daly/RMA.  Photo of the site on April 27, 2017 is by RMA.


 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Spring Outreach - Love Our Trees Tour and Embassy Open Houses


Love Our Trees Valentine (Dreamstime)
Love Our Trees Tour
We held our first tree tour - a new way to teach Mass Ave neighbors about the trees and landscape features we have organized over 9 years and to thank our partners there who care for them so well.

Some of the neighbors taking the tour had never met! Yet they shared their curiousity and LOVE for trees, while strolling on sidewalks they pass daily. It was a beautiful day .

This tour featured the 2400 block of Mass Ave and also Emmet Park, the triangle park on Mass Ave between 24 and S Streets, recently re-landscaped by the National Park Service.

Mass Ave resident Debbie Rider arranged the tour. RMA President Deborah Shapley served as guide. 
Saumya Mitra and Debbie Rider at the May 24 Love Our Trees Tour.
Our Take A Tour page slideshow will help you count the ways to love trees on this part of Embassy Row/Mass Ave. What are those huge trees with year-round glossy leaves by the Chad Embassy (2401 Mass)? What are the curbside row and "second row" of trees whose branches close over the sidewalk by the embassies of Zambia (2419 Mass), Korea (2450 Mass),  Côte d'Ivoire (2424 Mass) and the Venezuela Residence (2443 Mass).   How to ID a sick tree? Check out our slideshow - and come to our next Love our Trees Tour!

Taryn Farber of the DC Urban Forestry Administration helped identify the city trees on the tour; RMA arranges care for these trees.  (Thank you, Taryn, for trimming some too-low branches over the sidewalk.) Board members Holly Sukenik and Rob Nevitt assisted. Treekeeper John Umberger took photos.

Info tables at Embassy Open Houses
RMA made our program known to thousands of people who crowded the sidewalks of our part of Embassy Row, to be admitted to free Embassy Open Houses.  Passport DC holds these wildly successful come-one-and-all events on two Saturdays in May with Cultural Tourism DC.

On May 14 volunteers Melissa Kaminski and Sally Wiebe and Board member Holly Sukenik staffed our info table, at the park by the Estonia Embassy (2201 Mass). RMA got the city to create this space and plant a major tree. Anne Black was a special addition to our table crew;  she and husband Steve Black maintain the park plantings.

For the May 7 open house, RMA's table was by the Embassy of Indonesia (2020 Mass). The crowds were so dense that Treekeeper Lindsey Larson and Board member Claire Wagner moved our poster next to the street to take this picture. The Indonesia Embassy staff were welcoming as always.

Below are recent photos of two American elms we planted at the Embassy. We planted these trees and others there in March 2011. Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal hosted our planting and Casey Trees donated the trees.                     - by Deborah Shapley


Top:  RMA's Deborah Shapley, Lindsey Larson and Claire Wagner on May 7.  Left: American elm we planted with Embassy of Indonesia is scaled to the statue of the Hindu goddess Dewi Saraswati.  Right: Another elm we planted with the Embassy at the corner of Mass Ave and 21 Street. (RMA)












Saturday, July 30, 2016

PSC Vote Saves Historic Landscape at Norway Embassy

Thousands who pass the intersection of Mass Ave and 34 Street NW will continue to enjoy sweeping views of enormous trees and historic embassies, thanks to a key DC government committee vote.


The committee’s discussion and vote are an important boost to Restore Mass Ave’s campaign to preserve exemplary original trees and landscape of the historic avenue.

Royal Norwegian Embassy (left) and Vatican Embassy (right) seen from bus stop by US Naval Observatory. RMA.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy’s application for a 6-foot high security fence that would run through its corner yards was denied by the Public Space Committee (PSC) of the DC Department of Transportation at a hearing Dec 17, 2015.   

The Embassy at 3401 Mass Ave is a handsome Beaux Arts mansion built in 1923, the heyday of the original “grand avenue.” 1/ The embassy entrance and statue of the Queen of Norway are framed by two big linden trees, a younger linden and related plantings. Across Mass Ave is the hill and trees of the Naval Observatory/Vice President’s Residence. Across 34 Street is the Apostolic Nunciature/Vatican Embassy, where six of the original American lindens planted inside the sidewalk in 1904, still thrive. 

The ensemble of these views is the best surviving stretch of original grand avenue streetscape. It also is one of the most visible; perhaps 41,000 vehicles pass daily according to DDOT.
 
The PSC may permit or deny proposed “improvements” to public land along city roadways. Along Mass Ave, the land in front of most buildings, including the Norway Embassy, is city land. The PSC hearing reviewed the latest Norway fence plan, presented by Morrison Architects.2/ Since the fence would run past the trees, the DDOT Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) had voiced concerns; the plan had been revised twice.  
 
As the hearing progressed, some PSC members stated they were unconvinced the fence would protect the building, and so were not qualified to approve the application on this basis.

Restore Mass Ave President Deborah Shapley also testified. Since publication of RMA’s step-by-step guide to the original landscape, which shows the Norway Embassy as a model,3/ RMA has filed briefs and worked with prospective developers to save and restore the two miles of Mass Ave from Dupont Circle to Wisconsin Avenue, which is lined with early1900s mansions and some surviving original trees.  

“Civic function” of a grand avenue
Shapley testified that the landscape of Mass Ave, which once traversed the city for seven miles, was designed as a “grand avenue” or “linear promenade” that was “imbued with civic function.” The 40’ deep “parking” on each side was left as greenspace to enhance the grand avenue design. The city planted continuous tree rows along the curb and parallel rows of similar trees in the “parking”. The large American lindens by the Norway Embassy may have been planted in 1904, she said.

RMA urges no fences in this “parking”, especially where important trees are well-rooted and healthy after 50, 70 or 100 years, she testified. She thanked the Embassy for submitting a “less disruptive” design but agreed with UFA witness Sharon Dendy that even the latest plan could not guarantee the health of these trees.

Private buildings that are landscaped to visually connect to the public space are “symbols of confidence and openness and advance the civic function of a grand avenue,” she said. So the avenue’s open views are a feature of the capital city’s heritage.

Security
As for security, owners of these historic properties should “realize that this two mile area” from Dupont Circle to Wisconsin Avenue “is not suitable for walled compounds or the appearance of them. A government needing that level of security should consider locating the facility elsewhere,” she testified.

RMA has persuaded owners to remove or avoid building fences and other visual barriers in the “parking” along the avenue, when they realize the added value of keeping historic vistas. (RMA also arranges for new trees and other landscape elements to re-create these views.)

Vatican Embassy historic trees 
Earlier in the year RMA expressed concern about a fence proposed for the Vatican Embassy, she testified. The 6 foot high iron fence and three electric gates would be just inside the sidewalk of Mass Ave and 34 Street, by six giant linden trees that have thrived undisturbed for more than a century. 4/  Similar concerns were voiced by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C. 5/  

On behalf of RMA and ANC 3C, arborist Keith Pitchford of Pitchford Associates met in April with the arborists proposing this fence. In May, the Urban Forestry Administration said any fence should be as far from the existing trees as possible. June, the application was withdrawn, apparently because the embassy could be secured by other means.

Office of Planning report
Also in May, the DC Office of Planning (OP) said the fence as proposed was “inconsistent” with security requirements and “impacts the view corridor along the Avenue.” 6/   OP mapped where “over height” fences (of 42” or higher) had been allowed on public land along the avenue. The report said most are on another segment that has “a separate… character,” so these “do not set a precedent for security fences along the Avenue in its entirety.” 

A fence 38 feet in from the curb at this site “would be more consistent with District interests in maintaining the open character along Massachusetts Avenue” and maintaining the health of the trees, the report said.

Construction impacts 
At the PSC hearing, Shapley said that RMA’s concern had been sparked by cases where large historic trees had been harmed during permitted construction. Her testimony included photos of another huge “second row linden” by the Embassy of South Africa, with construction materials piled around it, during renovation of the front driveway and buildings. That tree has since died.

Advised by experts, RMA and ANC 3C reviewed the city’s permitting process. They found major loop holes; machinery can whack tree branches, roots may be cut for driveways, walls and fences, loads may be piled around healthy trees, often without penalty. RMA created a proposal to close these loopholes and protect more trees. RMA filed its “Eight Tree Protections” in the Zoning Regulation Review in September.  Three Advisory Neighborhood Commissions filed requests for these same protections by the ZRR deadline.7/ 

During the PSC hearing, some members expressed regret the committee had allowed fence and hardscape “improvements” which were inappropriate at another site, not named.

After the committee voted against the Norway fence plan, PSC Chair Matthew Marcou clarified procedure. The Embassy could return on another application pathway to submit another proposal, he said.

NOTES:

1/ Official address: 2720 34 Street NW, Washington, DC 20008.
2/ Filing #113157 Permittee: Mariya Sadykov. Owner: Embassy of Norway 3401 MASS AVE FENCE -11-24-15.pdf
3/ A Grand Avenue Revival: Massachusetts Avenue Landscape History & Design Guide, published RMA in 2014. Download here. Order free copy here. The book won the 2015 Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation / Education from the city Office of Historic Preservation. See Events Archive page.
4/ FMBZA, 19013 – Apostolic Nunciature - 3339 Mass Ave NW.
5/ ANC 3C Resolutions Nos 2015-016 (April 20, 2015) and 2015-021 (May 18, 2015).
6/ FMBZA 19013 3339 Mass Av NW OP Report.pdf   OP pp. 4-6, 11 Attachment IV “Over Height Fences on Massachusetts Avenue.”
7/ See Partnering with the City and Our PDFs on at RestoreMassAve.org

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New! Treekeeper Workshop Dec 6, 11-1 pm

Join our Treekeepers this Sunday! From 11 am our team will help needy city trees near Emmet Park. This is a triangle park along Mass Ave between 24th and S Streets, facing the Chad Embassy at 2401 Mass Ave (where RMA arranged many trees).


Look for our red wagon and white sign. For updates on the day, text Jon Gossens 802-272-0332. Best to wear dirt-friendly clothing and shoes. You may just appear. Or sign in on our Volunteer page.  We’ll have the RMA release form for new volunteers to sign upon arrival.

What's Emmet Park? Learn why it is important on our Historic Initiative page. RMA is pushing to save the big Deodar cedar and to add new shade trees there. Besides the cedrus Deodara the park has a black gum tree, Nyssa sylvatica, we planted in 2008. See their foliage below.
Foliage and branches of Deodar cedar in Emmet Park. (RMA)

Fall foliage of black gum tree we planted in Emmet Park. (RMA)

 Who are our volunteers? RMA volunteers come from different backgrounds and parts of the Metro area. They work as best fits their schedules. They do the essential work of our nonprofit organization.

Please visit the Volunteer page and tell us your skills and interests. Many of those who help are pictured as Faces of RMA on our Why Restore Mass Ave page. Our volunteer Associates and Board of Directors are pictured here on the site.

We LOVE our volunteers! See you Sunday!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Emmet Park: Statue and Cedar can Coexist

The proposed removal of a large Deodar cedar tree (cedrus Deodora) in Emmet Park may be unneccessary, said Restore Mass Ave in a Comment to the National Park Service on November 11. The park is in a triangle of land bounded by Mass Ave, 24th and S Street NW; the large, gray-green evergreen is a notable feature of this part of Embassy Row.

The Park Service has proposed removing the big tree to make the statue of Irish patriot Robert Emmet more visible. Also because sap drip from its branches allegedly could harm the bronze statue.

Based on expert advice, Restore Mass Ave suggested the cedar can remain without sap drip harming the statue.  This finding is in a Note on Statue and Sap which accompanied the filing. For the complete filing see Our PDFs page.





Our group also proposed planting two new shade trees on the neglected upper slopes of the park, in the DC land which runs along the curbs. This area at  S and 24th Streets is now a hot traffic corner. Tall trees there would be away from, yet frame the statue and connect the formal streetscape of Mass Ave with the old-growth forested hill of Kalorama.

Please visit our Historic Landscape Initiative page to view a slideshow of Restore Mass Ave's work near Emmet Park. We've arranged new trees; we care for    several of them ourselves. The embassies of Chad and of Cameroon also care for trees facing the park. Catoctin Construction, which is renovating the Embassy of Cameroon, refilled the water baga around a young cherrywe planted in the park. (see Tree Care Blog, January 2012.)

All these activities, together, fit RMA's motto: "Many stakeholders, one landscape."    

Right: Three matching "Red Sunset" red maple street trees in glorious fall colors. They face the Embassy of Chad (2401 Mass) and are cared for by that Embassy. They are across S Street from Emmet Park.

All photos: Restore Mass Ave


Monday, September 28, 2015

Pest Harming District's Willow Oaks

Restore Mass Ave announced today that it has treated the willow oaks on historic Embassy Row infected by a pest called oak lecanium scale (Parthenolecanium quercifix). But other willow oaks along DC streets are suffering badly from this pest.

This warning was issued today by the manager of RMA's project, William Eck of Bartlett Tree Expert Company in Gaithersburg, Md.  Though this scale has been known a long time, Eck warns that it is getting worse.
Damaged pin oak, 2500 block of Mass Ave.

Eck, who is an arborist and manager for Bartlett, said some of the badly infected trees are majestic willow oaks along MacArthur Boulevard, Lowell Street and Loughboro Road and 46th Street in Northwest.  Eck also reports bad scale damage to these iconic trees on M Street and nearby streets in Southeast. Many of these large, majestic willow oaks are city "street trees."

In today's press release with Eck's warning, Restore Mass Ave called on the DC Urban Forestry Administration, which has charge of the city's 131,000 street trees, to inform the public whether the threat from oak lecanium scale is getting worse. In the past, this well-known scale tended to fade away each season so treatment was not needed.

Residents and businesses should look for signs of scale on the willow and pin oaks (see RMA photo). RMA President Deborah Shapley urged the public "to consider treatment for less damaged and nearby undamaged trees." The scale spreads from tree to tree and does not respect boundaries between city-owned street trees and privately maintained trees nearby.
Oak lecanium scales along twig of a Mass Ave willow oak.

After Eck /Bartlett identified the scale as damaging or about to damage twelve trees in the 2500 block of Mass Ave, RMA hired the firm to treat the trees; some were city trees, and some were second row trees facing them across the sidewalk. Go to our Second Row of Trees page for more on our project which could be a model for public-private response to the threat.

Nearly all of the hundreds of trees along the Embassy Row part of Massachusetts Avenue NW are lindens or elms. RMA has also arranged swamp white oaks (Quercus bicolor) which is in a sub-genus of the oak family that this pest does not care about.  Fortunately, just twelve willow oaks and pin oaks were judged at risk. For more info and a photo of our worst damaged tree please visit our Green Your Street page.

Eck says watering and mulching are the best way to prevent the scale from hurting these trees. When they grow healthy and strong, they can resist these pests.

Photos: Restore Mass Ave