Last November, 12 new trees came to Lakeside Park, all native species, river birch, black gum, and Eastern redbud. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them, but perhaps you’ve wondered how they came to be there. Well, here’s the story…
During 2019, Friends of Royal Lake (FORL) leadership visited several communities that border Royal Lake to garner more FORL members and increase interest in the work we are doing to protect and preserve the lake and surrounding parkland. At the New Lakepointe HOA meeting in March, resident Michael Schindler came to us with a proposal to volunteer as part of his company’s Balfour Beatty US Spirit program. Under the general contracting company’s program, Balfour Betty employees give back to the local community and volunteer their time.
Michael is a 2018 George Mason University (GMU) graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Infrastructure Engineering. At GMU, he was active with the student organization Engineers for International Development (EFID) and traveled to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua to build a water supply for a local orphanage. While at GMU, he worked at the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) and established a connection with the Urban Forest Management Division (UFMD). Michael offered to act as middleman and reach out to UFMD.
UFMD deals primarily with land development, rezoning and working with site inspectors after projects begin construction, but it also provides education and outreach services to raise awareness of and encourage conservation of the county’s urban forests. Tree canopy loss to development is one of the main stressors impacting the urban forest, and planting new trees is necessary to maintain the county’s percentage of land area in tree cover, about 55%. For the last three years, UFMD has administered the county’s Tree Preservation and Planting Fund to cover material costs and coordinated tree planting at public schools, parks, and other county properties. Volunteers and organizations like Balfour Beatty, EFID, and FORL have been valuable contributors to successfully implement these tree planting projects. The trees that now grace Lakeside Park were paid for by the Fairfax County Tree Preservation and Planting Fund.
After consultation with local experts and review and approval by the Fairfax County Park Authority to ensure the trees selected were appropriate for the venue, we were ready to go. On November 23, with some help from the KPW community, FORL, students from GMU’s Engineers for International Development, and Balfour Beatty volunteers, the trees became permanent residents of Lakeside Park. They will surely provide welcome shade in the hot sunny months as park visitors use the trails!
More improvements are under development for Lakeside and Royal Lake Parks, including porta-johns to be installed year-round and two dog waste stations (co-located with existing trash receptacles) at both parks. These stem from a FORL survey a couple years ago. If you have ideas, please feel free to reach out to Paul Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sarah Lennon at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. See you at the parks!
Author Sarah G.J. Lennon is Vice President of Friends of Royal Lake. FORL member Lynn Cline provided the photos. Workdays are done under the umbrella of the Royal Lake Park Volunteer Team in coordination with the Park Authority.