Great Falls White Oak Trees Get a Stay of Execution

VDOT Photos

Two stately but possibly dangerous White Oak trees will tower over Great Falls for at least a few more weeks.

The Virginia Department of Transportation had planned to remove the trees at the corner of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road, about 300 feet from where an oak tree  fell onto a car in July, killing a motorist.  Both trees are located within VDOT right of way. The two trees are in addition to the 59 dead or dying trees VDOT removed in August on several roads in Great Falls.

But today, VDOT said it was yielding to the pleas of the Great Falls Citizen Association, which was alarmed at the possible loss of the iconic trees. The citizens association will hire an arborist to provide a second opinion on whether the trees are safe.

VDOT said its earlier decision was based on a risk assessment done by Trees Please of Haymarket, Va., and made it clear that the temporary stay is not permanent.

“We are asking the community to move quickly in hiring an arborist,” said Garrett Moore, VDOT Northern Virginia District Administrator. “We want to be responsive and transparent to the community but at the same time need to minimize any risk with these trees.”

VDOT has also asked Fairfax County’s arborist to assess the health of the trees.

Storm damage?

Great Falls residents became concerned about the safety of their heavily-treed community in July, after 64-year-old Albert Carl Roeth III was killed when a tree fell on his car.

Roeth was driving his 2008 Mercedes CL600 southbound on Georgetown Pike on Tuesday, July 17, shortly after 6:30 p.m. As he was passing through the 9900 block of Georgetown Pike, a very large tree unexpectedly fell from the right side of the roadway directly onto the Mercedes, police investigators said.

The violent derecho that struck Fairfax on June 29 has been blamed for the loss of hundreds of trees. Arborists say that even trees that are perfectly healthy can be weakened by the violent whipsawing, hurricane-force winds that accompanied the storm.

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.