October 15, 2019 /
Jona Elwell

Trees for Georgetown Celebrates Thirty Years

While our offices are located in the Brookland neighborhood, we are happy we have a big presence across the District! We have worked with Trees for Georgetown since 2009. They not only maintain trees throughout one of D.C.’s most historic and popular neighborhoods but also add to the tree canopy of the city. And congratulations are in order – they recently celebrated 30 years (!!) of planting and caring for trees in the neighborhood!  Considering we’ve only been around since 2002, this is a tree-mendous accomplishment! We caught up with Betsy Emes, who took over leadership of Trees for Georgetown 15 years ago.

So how exactly did a citizen’s association get involved in a mostly city-run effort of planting trees? Thirty years ago, Emes explained, the city was a much different place and its priorities and therefore, budget, was focused on other pressing issues. “The city essentially ran out of money. Watching the trees along their streets fail, a group of folks got together and said ‘well if the city can’t do it, we will.’”

That can-do attitude has gotten Georgetown far in the ensuing thirty years. Since 1989 they’ve planted over 2,500 trees! When asked Betsy what goes through her mind when she sees a tree that Trees for Georgetown planted thriving she quickly responded, “It’s thrilling. I’m in awe that a tree made it despite the harsh environment it was introduced into.” While a highly curated and planted tree box might seem like a nice, welcoming, friendly environment to you, as Emes pointed out, for trees all that extra mulch, roots, and the soil is, in fact, quite damaging to the tree. She mentioned the constant education around tree box maintenance as one of the uphill battles she faces fighting for Georgetown’s trees.

Overall though, Emes’ outlook is positive. “Trees, they’re resilient. And people can always learn. Overall I’ve sensed more and more people caring about their trees – they’re increasing their investment and understanding that trees in front of your house you’re obliged to take care of.”

She was equally encouraged by our partnership. We’ve worked with Trees for Georgetown for the past handful of years since we essentially share a mission to create and maintain a sustainable, robust urban canopy in D.C. 

If the past thirty years have shown us anything, it’s that D.C., and the climate, are changing rapidly. While this might seem overwhelming to some, Trees for Georgetown is charging into the next thirty years with a renewed sense of urgency and importance in their work. “The future is bright.” Emes mused. We agree. Here’s to the next 2,500 trees and thirty years!

Trees for Georgetown is a volunteer group funded entirely by gifts and grants, whose purpose is to plant and maintain trees that line the residential streets of D.C.’s vibrant historic community. Working as a committee of Citizens Association of Georgetown since 1989, Trees for Georgetown has planted nearly 2,000 trees, contracted watering services during drought periods, and provided preventative maintenance for the neighborhood’s at-risk trees.