October 30, 2023 /
Vincent Drader

Fairfax Celebrates a Milestone

Last week, the Fairfax County Tree Commission celebrated its 50th anniversary in service to the county’s urban forest. In recognition of this half-century milestone, 50 trees were planted on the Ellipse at the Government Center. The native species of oak, blackgum, linden, and elm were all sourced from Casey Tree Farm in Berryville, VA, and planted all along the elliptical path and natural area behind the center.

The trees will not only provide ecological and environmental benefits to the area, but will also provide natural beauty and shade for all the employees who work there. Additionally, the Ellipse is used for community events, including a summer concert series where residents of Fairfax County are invited to enjoy the area for live music and community celebrations.

Speakers at the tree planting ceremony included Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Tree Commission Chair Cindy Speas, Casey Trees Chief Operating Officer Andrew Schichtel, and Director of the county’s Urban Forest Management Division and 2023 Casey Trees Canopy Award honoree, Brian Keightley.

“The Tree Commission promotes the equity goals of the county’s One Fairfax policy by supporting tree preservation and planning projects that will benefit historically underserved neighborhoods in Fairfax County”, commented Keightley, “and the Tree Commission has supported programs such as the community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, which seeks to expand the overall county tree canopy to 60%, with a minimum of 40% canopy coverage in every census block by 2030. Everyone deserves to benefit from living near trees.”

In August of 1973, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chartered the Tree Commission as a board of public members with the goal of implementing projects and programs that protect, preserve, and expand the tree canopy of Fairfax County, Virginia. The Tree Commission was chartered with 6 members, but now has 15 members with a representative from each magisterial district, one member-at-large, and one each from the Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Department of Extension and Continuing Education, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, the Fairfax County Park Authority, and the Environmental Quality Advisory Council.

The Tree Commission has been especially successful at providing action plans and enacting legislation that protects Fairfax County’s trees. Notably, in 2008, the Tree Commission enacted the Tree Conservation Ordinance, which implemented a requirement of a minimum percentage of tree canopy to be preserved or replanted during the land development process.

At the ceremony, before planting the ceremonial 50th tree, Brian Keightley concluded, “I am pleased to join with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which has recognized 2023 as the Tree Commission’s 50th Anniversary year, a time to honor and celebrate all its members over the years who faithfully served to preserve, protect and expand our urban forest for the benefit all county residents, both now and in the future.”