Blog Post By Sara Stacy, Urban Forestry Manager

Quick communication leads to a Benning Road tree rescue

We wanted to share with you a story about a pretty remarkable experience – for us, and in turn for the District’s canopy. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look into what it took to save a group of trees planted three years prior:

Arborist Sara Turner was faced with a problem she didn’t know she had one day earlier.

After receiving a phone call last week from a project manager for the D.C. Streetcar Project, Sara realized that the construction timeline for a particular part of the District’s latest transportation project was much faster than she had realized – and that potentially 16 trees previously planted by students from Spingarn High School during Community Tree Plantings were in danger of being demolished.

The car barn designed for the streetcar system is to be housed directly in front of the school, on what was a large expanse of land directly at the corner of 26th St. NE and Benning Road NE. Those trees, five sugar maples and eleven American sweetgums, were planted in 2010 and cared for over the past three years by the Tree Planting and Summer Crew teams.

The trees were reaching the end of their establishment period, and were green and healthy – we couldn’t just leave them there, could we? That was the argument of Mike Ferguson, Urban Forestry Manager: too much work and time on behalf of the kids and the Crew had been spent, and too much healthy growth from the trees would be wasted.

So Sara immediately began making calls and quickly found a home for the trees – at St. Elizabeths Hospital! But “Operation Tree Relocate” had a variety of factors that required extra planning, including tree size, equipment…and a short staff.

Transitions like this, in the middle of the summer, can devastate trees and are almost never undertaken for fear of the impact on the trees…but time was of the essence. Since the trees were already established, the rootballs required to dig them up were considerably larger than the ones we typically deal with during Community Tree Plantings. Compared to the roughly 28″ rootball diameters we transport during planting seasons, these rootballs were roughly 42″ – and anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 lbs!

And the sheer number of equipment needed to dig up and move such heavy trees was equally as impressive: tree spades, a skid steer and a Dingo, as well as the strength and stamina of five of our Crew’s finest. But after nearly two days of hard work and a week’s worth of logistics, our team was able to find a new home for some leafy friends.

Though not out of the woods yet (so to speak), we have high hopes for the 16 trees of “Operation Tree Relocate” and we’ll keep you updated on their progress! Another success story in the making!

Want to see more of this exciting day? Check out our Flickr page for more pictures from the first day of our tree rescue. 

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