Trees, Trees Everywhere, But None to Share

Tree 3Within 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.


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.

Tree 1In 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

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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