Within the Fairfax County Park Authority is a group of skillful folks responsible for care of the multitude of park facilities, grounds, sport fields and trees. FCPA’s Forestry Operations has a unique role in Fairfax County in that it has responsibility for tree care in all 427 county parks. Ideally, the job would be a mixture of pruning, tree health management, specialized young tree care and tree removals. Sadly, tree removal accounts for 99 percent of Forestry’s work.
Not by choice.
EMERALD ASH BORER, OAK DECLINE and TREE REMOVALS
Fairfax County’s ash trees are under attack from the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). This pest destroys 99.8 percent of all native ash trees it infects. Their activity causes trees to quickly die and become dangerous. The way EAB attacks, or feeds, destroys the tree’s water and nutrient-conducting ability, and essentially the tree starves. The result? A dead tree that could pose a serious risk to people and property.
Forestry and county contractors work daily to remove these trees. Since the start of 2015, Forestry has taken down nearly 1,000 ash trees, and the work has only just begun. This number will likely increase to upwards of 3,000 over the next three to four years.
In the same recent time period, Forestry took down approximately 2,900 trees, in addition to the ash trees. More than 1,000 of those were oaks. Over the past five years, Fairfax County saw severe and environmentally stressful weather conditions, especially high summer temperatures and extreme drought.
In the spring of 2016, the area had a late frost, and it is likely this frost took place at the same time as oak bud break began. Many trees were not able to overcome the effects of that frost damage because of stress from the previous drought and temperature extremes. As a result, the weaker trees had higher mortality rates. Unlike EAB’s impact, the oak decline syndrome should lessen in the years ahead.
Do you remember the windstorm on March 2? It was so windy that day, I got to work a half-hour before I left home. We had quite a blow, and the old yarn about how March comes in like a lion couldn’t hold a candle to what we experienced this year. The storm damage was county-wide, mostly broken and uprooted trees.
Forestry crews worked all day Saturday, March 3, and will continue to work on storm clean-up for several weeks to come. The county tree service contractor will be busy with clean-up, too. The combination of extreme high wind gusts — up to 75 mph at Dulles Airport — and wet soil set up a “perfect storm.” Within three days, the Forestry Operations call center received more than 100 calls for tree damage, and more calls continue to trickle in daily.
The trees most often seen during site inspections were Virginia pine, red maple, tulip poplar and ash. Limbs and branches made up much of the debris and often made access difficult in some locations. Nevertheless, many county parks were open within a day or two after the storm, and park patrons had the opportunity to enjoy parkland due to the efforts of all the Park Operations staff.
If you have a tree concern, visit the Park Operations work request page: Report A Parkland Tree Concern
If you have storm damage, visit this county site: What to Do If You Have Storm Damage From a Tree (Insurance Info)
Author Scott Diffenderfer is an Urban Forester for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Learn more about tree health in the blog post, “The Wind in the Willows…” at https://ourstoriesandperspectives.com/2018/03/14/the-wind-in-the-willows-and-oaks-and-pines-and/.
The emerald ash borer has ruined a few ash trees here in California, but because ash trees are not native to the forests, it does not get around as quickly as it does elsewhere.