Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Historical society party launches our book

      Mud-filled streets. A red line slashing across the iconic map of Pierre L'Enfant's plan for the capital.  Cloning the Champs Elysées. Sherlock Holmes....
      Guests learned the connections among these things at a reception launching our book A Grand Avenue Revival at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. December 6.
Neither rain nor downtown traffic kept history fans away.
       Deborah Shapley, author, explained why Mass Ave was planned by L'Enfant as the city's longest east-west avenue (the red-line slash graphic). She said the post-Civil War leaders of Washington copied the Champs Elysées' use of parked green space and tree rows to create a designed public thoroughfare - and to save money on the amount of muddy roadway to be paved.
        RMA's first phase, she said, had been devoted to adding trees to reform the historic allées along the two-mile Embassy Row section of Mass Ave -- which originally had seven miles of linden allées.  She thanked Casey Trees for having donated historic-type trees, that, parallel with city sidewalk trees, are regrowing the original views.
     A Grand Avenue Revival is the platform for RMA's next goal: complete landscape restoration, so future generations can enjoy the original landscape highlighting the street's famous architecture.
     But what, exactly, was that landscape?
Craig Moran, Lily Nguyen
     The answers are shown in the book, based old-photo sleuthing worthy of Sherlock Holmes!
Deborah Shapley with John Suau and Anne McDonough of HSW

Barbara J. Saffir
Norma Lombardi
Davis Lee Kennedy
     Guests included the designer of the innovative volume, Sally Murray James, of Cutting Edge Design DC, Mark Buscaino, Executive Director of Casey Trees, introduced Ms. Shapley.  Guests included Dr. Clifford Janey, Embassy Row resident and DC Schools Superintendent under Mayor Anthony Williams. Davis Lee Kennedy, publisher of The Current, attended. Among the DC history fans was Barbara J. Saffir, author of Walking Washington, DC.
        HSW's locale at the Carnegie Library of Washington at Mass Ave and 9th Street NW, was a special venue linked to the crucial period described in the book. We offer special thanks to John Suau, Executive Director of HSW, and the staff, particularly events manager Karen Harris.
         View some of the Dec 6 presentation on our Historic Initiative Page.  Our website offers free download of A Grand Avenue Revival.  Request your free print copy on our Contact Us page.
                                                                                  Photos:  Richard Royce/RMA

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our new website has launched!

Restore Mass Ave has a new website!  Visit on your computer, mobile or tablet and learn about our mission, projects and people - the faces of RMA. Scroll through our tree plantings and other milestones on the Events Archive page to see how we've added hundreds of trees.

Tree care is a critical part of RMA's work. Our Tree Care pages have practical advice so anyone can learn how to care for trees in Washington. This section gathers info about DC government's role in tree planting plus other resources to help individuals, homeowners, businesses and embassies connect with public agencies and relevant laws.

Contractors who do the right thing and embassies that show special care for trees and landscape are highlighted in the Green Community section.

RMA President Deborah Shapley says: "Finally, we can showcase RMA's past and present work; we can give credit to the dozens of people and organizations who are re-greening this historic street."

The rich photographic look, design and logo was created by Gill Fishman Associates. a branding and marketing firm in Cambridge, Mass., with a long list of prestigious clients. GFA offers the ability to collaborate with clients long distance as if they were a just a step down the street.

Fishman says, "We are delighted to have been able to carry out this project and show that Restore Mass Ave sets an example for the nonprofit world." 

Here's Gill. See him also on the Faces slideshow on the site. 
Photo: GFA
On our Board of Directors page, you'll see Jillian Fishman, a great Treekeeper volunteer and active Board member, who helped to spearhead the rebranding and website launch. The programming was done by the talented Luann Ebert,  This fine team, working together, has enabled RMA to enter a new phase.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

AmeriCorps volunteers dig in to help our trees

Our volunteers came from Kansas, Alabama, California - and Greece! Four young Americans with AmeriCorps helped trees by the church on 22nd Street just off Mass Ave.  "It was wonderful to understand how important the trees are to a community," said organizer Sarah Chandler from Manhattan, Kansas.

 Our team included Christina Georgiou of the Embassy of Greece, which is nearby at 2217 Mass. In 2010 this embassy received trees in the planting at which RMA and Casey Trees installed 13 trees around the Church of the Pilgrims.  At our August 30 Treekeeper meetup, Christina said she loved learning about tree care and the amazing US government program, AmeriCorps.  (Formerly known as Vista, AmeriCorps started in 1993. In twenty years 700,000 participants have worked to improve local communities, giving one billion hours of service.)

Who's the fellow above on right?  He is RMA star Treekeeper Robert Thomason. Robert is a Mass Ave resident and a terrific teacher to those who want to learn how to grow bigger city trees. 

Below is a scene from our planting of these trees in October 2010. You can view this and our other six plantings with Casey Trees on our new website

In the photo church parishioners and Casey Trees volunteers are planting London plane trees,  American hornbeams and dogwoods on this lawn, which 25,000 commuters pass daily. On the south and west yards of the church, the trees we planted are: sweet gum, bald cypress, swamp oak and catalpa.   For other great RMA news, look below this photo!
For  Who We Are, Where We Work and Tree Care how-tos , visit our new web site The site was generously provided by Gill Fishman Design of Cambridge, MA.

                                                                                                      --  Deborah Shapley

Friday, September 5, 2014

Conservation International partners with RMA

Many young workers who have moved to DC know local cafés, gyms and other hangouts. But they know nothing about the trees they pass on the street every day. This view was expressed by a group of volunteers organized by Conservation International (CI) in a workshop with Restore Mass Ave on August 16.

The group, organized by Natalie Omundson of CI, first cleared out tree boxes in the 2400 block of Mass. One "neediest case" was a young elm tree next to the street, surrounded by an orange construction fence which enclosed the tree, plus trash piles and weeds.  

Volunteers cleared this tree box, raising the tree's odds of survival.
It took 7 people - led by RMA Treekeeper Robert Thomason - to clear out the tree box - poking through the fence and setting it back afterwards. Why the mess? This tree is 10 feet from a massive embassy renovation at 2406 Mass. Thankfully the construction firm,  Forrester, has protected and fenced this little tree.  But its soil is compacted and it needs water.  RMA will follow up to get the embassy next door to provide water, and get Forrester to help it survive.  

Afterwards, the volunteers discussed trees on their streets and guessed their types and condition. They considered how they might help those trees.

Conservation International is a very large nonprofit; its projects in 33 countries address big problems such as species loss and deforestation.  But the volunteers said that from the Arlington, Va. headquarters, they don't normally visit actual projects or see near-term results.  

That's why actively helping trees here in DC, was fun, they said. Ms. Omundson said they hoped to work with RMA on other projects.
                                                                                       - Deborah Shapley  (Photos: RMA)

Conservation International volunteers.
RMA's Robert Thomason (blue shirt) in the discussion session.        

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Volunteer tree care season under way

At top, our volunteer Treekeepers help two linden trees by a busy bus stop, where people need cool and shade. Below, Treekeepers remove rocks and clay hindering young elms by the Embassies of Georgia and Turkmenistan.

Above Mikel and Joe Witte dug away dirt, glass, and junk packed around one stressed linden. Michael Kinzer swept this discarded stuff into a tarp so we could carry it to the public trash.
Embassy Row Hotel (2015 Mass) connected its spigot to our hose, so we gave these thirsty trees lots of water. Shown are the hotel's Derek Strickland Jr. and Max Noyes with Treekeepers.

The trees we helped in another session were two little elms which RMA and Casey Trees had planted to rebuild the historic second row in the 2200 block of Mass. Their roots were suffocating from clay and rocks that had piled up in the sloping yards. 

At left is the hole we dug to excavate the base of the little elm by the Embassy of Turkmenistan (2207 Mass).

Below, Treekeeper Matt Milano pulls out the stake around the next-door elm at the Embassy of Georgia (2209 Mass). Garrett Steed needed a pickaxe to excavate the hard clay around this tree.

Later Rob Nevitt mulched both trees. We gave them several doses of water.  Both embassies will follow up. Now that these trees' roots can get water and air directly, they should grow better.

Photos: Above RMA. Below: RMA Richard Royce

We tag one elm to show  its benefits. As a 2.5" American elm it provides $8 in annual benefits. IF we can grow it to 8" in diameter the tree will give back $52 per year, according to   But whether young city trees ever reach their mature size is a big IF. They need help! 
To get notices of August and September volunteer sessions, please email  We hope to greet you under the trees!

-- Deborah Shapley, Restore Mass Ave

Friday, June 13, 2014

Model mulch project starts our summer program

This summer the sidewalk trees here will be stressed. The sun beats down during the long, hot days; also its heat reflects back from the pavement.  People bake and choke on bare sidewalks. Likewise,  the root systems of sidewalk trees need all the water they can get plus exchanges of fresh air.

RMA hired Professional Gardens LLC to yank weeds, grass and debris away from 33 important sidewalk trees on Embassy Row. How much weedy dirt can 33 trees have messing them up? More than one truckful, it turned out. 
The  crew spread shredded hardwood mulch - but thinly, so water from rainfall and hoses can flow easily to each tree's base. Please pass here and see model, flat mulched squares around these trees.  In this video proprietor Ricky Fuentes shows how to do it.

What's next?
---RMA will be reminding local owners to water the trees, 25 gallons per week, until fall. As the weeds start up again, we'll remind owners to pull them out so the trees will fare better. 
-- Our summer tree care workshops will give special help to other trees. Teams of  Treekeepers deploy for a few hours, mostly on weekends. We can host groups for community service. For info please email

Help us nurture rows of shade trees that make Embassy Row a 'cool' summer hangout.                                                                                                                                - Deborah Shapley

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Embassy open house visitors learn about trees

May 3 and 10, 2014
We spoke with hundreds of people about our work reviving the trees and historic landscape on Embassy Row, in the course of two glorious weekends here.

The general public is invited to visit embassies free of charge on two Saturdays in May. These open houses, organized by Passport DC, have become wildly popular. The sidewalks of Embassy Row are jammed. People form long lines for entry to an impressive interior showcasing that nation's art and culture, to sample cuisine and take away tourism info and souveniers. They also feel what it's like to be in the public space here - under the trees or in the hot sun on the still-bare bare parts of the avenue.

On May 3 RMA reps met people of all ages and backgrounds at our table on the sidewalk by the Embassy of Zambia. The following Saturday we spoke with even more people at the British Embassy, which reported more than 8,000 visitors that day.

We hope those we met will echo our message: you too can grow healthy city trees. Those who gave us their contact info will be sent our educational messages and news.

We also hope our new friends will join in our work saving one of the nation's treasured streets.
With their help, we can have shadier sidewalks for the crowds next year.

                                        - Deborah Shapley

More photos on Twitter @restoremassave.
To learn more please email