Beautifying city, one tree at a time

By Cathy Jett
Fredericksburg, VA (November 16, 2009)- A volunteer group is trying to make a sustainable difference in Fredericksburg, one tree at a time. Tree Fredericksburg, an offshoot of the city’s beautification program, planted 17 spindly saplings Saturday in the wide, grassy area around the train station.

The native redbuds and willow oaks will have plenty of room to spread their roots, unlike trees growing in a cramped strip between the street and the sidewalk, said Anne G. Little, who heads the soon-to-be-nonprofit with her husband, Carl. “Our motto is ‘The right tree in the right place,'” she said.
When the newly planted saplings mature, they’ll stand 50 feet tall and provide shelter for birds and squirrels for more than a century. Fast-growing trees, such as the Bradford pears lining downtown sidewalks, live only a few decades and can cost $1,000 or more to remove, according to Little. “The average life of a street tree,” she said, “is 13 years.”
Tree Fredericksburg got its start when the city’s Clean Community Commission appointed seven people to a beautification committee. That group decided it would rather focus on making the city green, and spun off as a private organization that works with the city to restore and maintain Fredericksburg’s urban forest.
Tree Fredericksburg has applied for nonprofit status, and uses grant money and donations to buy trees that are planted by volunteers. Members also offer education on proper tree selection and planting, some of which can be found on the group’s website.
“Without citizen involvement, we couldn’t do this,” Little said. This year’s goal is to plant 100 trees, 25 of which already are growing near the waste-water treatment plant and 15 more at Kenmore Park. Volunteers will plant 25 trees along Cowan Boulevard next to Hugh Mercer Elementary School this weekend, and CSX has given the organization $3,500 to plant trees on Railroad Avenue in Mayfield next month.
Their efforts come at a time when the City Council has slashed its budget for planting trees from $15,000 to $5,000, Little said. “It costs $100 to plant a tree, so that’s 50 trees,” she said. “Fredericksburg is cutting down 120 to 130 a year, so that means we’re falling behind.”
Yet trees provide all sorts of benefits, such as helping to purify the air and preventing storm runoff. Scientists also have found that people are more willing to walk and shop along tree-shaded sidewalks, and patients whose rooms have a view of trees get out out of the hospital faster than those who don’t, she said.
Besides the Littles, the dozen volunteers who turned out Saturday to plant trees in the rain-soaked earth included Joni Wilson, director of landscape and grounds at the University of Mary Washington; her daughter, Sky Wilson, who was meeting her Junior National Honor Society service requirement; and two UMW seniors, Justin Ball and Kyle Meagher, who are enrolled in an urban sociology class.
“You can’t just sit back and say to the city, ‘What are you doing?'” Wilson said. “There needs to be personal responsibility.”
Related Resources:
Fredericksburg Free Lance Star- Beautifying city, one tree at a time
Tree Fredericksburg