Great Falls White Oak Tree Must Go, VDOT Declares

VDOT Photos

VDOT Photos

It may  seem like a lot of commotion over a tree but these aren’t just any trees. For months, the Virginia Department of Transportation, county officials and Great Fall residents have been debating the future — if any — of two stately white oak trees at the corner of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road.

The ax is finally falling. VDOT says that, weather permitting, on March 19 it will remove one of the two trees and trim the other one.  The tree closest to the intersection will be removed; the other will be professionally pruned later this spring and monitored for deterioration, VDOT said.

The two trees are located about 300 feet from the oak tree that fell onto a car last July, killing a motorist. Last September VDOT announced that both trees would be removed based on an arborist’s report; however, at the request of the Great Falls Citizen Association, VDOT postponed removal while additional arborists were consulted by the community.

In a recent letter to local officials, Garrett Moore, VDOT’s Chief Engineer, said:

“After careful consideration of the facts, review of all testing performed, including the tomography testing, and a follow-up conference call with the four arborists involved in reviewing the two trees at Georgetown Pike and Walker Road, I have decided to remove the corner tree located closest to the intersection at Walker Road and Georgetown Pike, and leave the other tree (furthest from Walker Road) in place and have crown pruning done as a risk reduction measure that also has the potential to increase the life of the tree.  This tree will be periodically monitored as several arborists have advised there is potential for further deterioration of the tree.

My decision was based on information, testing and risk analysis provided by the arborists.  Three of the four arborists formally involved advised that the corner tree presented an unacceptable risk, as well as other arborists that were not formally involved.  One of the arborists that looked at the tree did not concur.  Given the location of the corner trees near queued cars at the stop light, its present health condition and its place in an urban environment, the risks to human life or injury were too great to let it remain. Three of the four arborists formally involved advised that the tree furthest from Walker Road could be retained for an indeterminate amount of time if crown pruning is done.  VDOT has no interest in removing trees along the right of way unless there is a safety issue.  The health of this tree will need to be monitored into the future.  We hope that it thrives, but if it becomes less stable or unhealthy, it also may need to be removed in coming years.”  

Tree crews will begin removal at 9 a.m. March 19. The work will take one or two days. For motorists’ safety VDOT will close one lane on Walker Road and one on Georgetown Pike from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.



About the Author

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.