Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

Urban Trees - The Key To A Healthy Community

November 17, 2016 5:15 PM | Anonymous member

Urban Trees - The Key To A Healthy Community

Featured Speaker: Suraj K. Sazawal, Policy Advocate at Casey Trees

Suraj Sazawal , Policy Advocate at Casey Trees emphasized that the District of Columbia will continue to be well served environmentally and aesthetically by increasing its overall tree canopy. The current canopy, the amount of coverage by greenery when looking at the city from overhead, is 36 percent. Ward 6 has the lowest tree canopy percentage, 17 percent, largely because of under planted federal property such as the Navy Yard.

Casey Trees is advocating for a 40 percent canopy, a goal shared with the DC government and codified in official policy within the Sustainable DC plan. To achieve this goal will require a focus on new tree planting on private property. Casey trees works with home owners, developers, and non profit organizations to promote tree planting.

Trees provide benefit by sustaining ecological balance, providing habitat for birds and insects, providing shade to streets and homes thereby reducing the need for artificial cooling and heating, and curbing storm water runoff that pollutes the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.

Policy in the District of Columbia supports the maintenance of heritage trees, any tree on private property with a circumference of least100 inches. Heritage trees may not be removed. Special trees, those with a circumference 40 to 99 inches, require a paid permit to be removed. It is possible to receive a permit to remove a special tree that is hazardous, however, the homeowner will have to pay the cost for removal. The District encourages tree planting on residential property through its River Smart Homes program and tree rebates.

Recently, the city revised the rules for street tree box maintenance. In 2017 no objects or plants will be permitted next to the root flare of a street tree. No objects (i.e. railroad ties, decorative boulders, etc.) will be permitted on the curbside of the tree box, and none over 12 inches will be permitted on the other three sides. No invasive plants (ivy, barberry, etc.) can be planted in the tree box and all plants must be less than of 18 inches tall. Finally, no build up of soil will be permitted that affects drainage in the tree box. If a homeowner adds seasonal mulch, it must be no higher than the natural soil level. No mulch volcanoes!

Council members Charles Allen and Mary Cheh oversee the committees that have the most governance over DC’s tree canopy. Saraj urged members of the garden club to become active advocates for trees in Washington by following relevant legislation and enforcement. It is easy to testify at hearings about trees, which usually take place in January. Information is available from Casey Trees to help all who wish to prepare themselves to be tree advocates.

If You Missed The Meeting Or Want More Information

You can download Suraj's complete presentation deck, with photos, graphs and more.

CHGC Presentation Deck

You can also download the District Department Of Transportation's document on Tree Space Rulemaking with everything that you could possible want or need to know about what you can do, or maybe not do, in a tree box.

Tree Spaces Rulemaking

You can become a Tree Advocate by contacting Suraj to learn how you can get involved. Additionally, if there are people interested becoming actively involved, we could arrange to hold a special Capitol Hill Garden Club workshop. Let Gail or Ed know if you would like for the Club to do this.

Suraj Sazawal


Fill out the short survey about the DC Comprehensive Plan, telling District planners what you think about protecting existing trees and planing for future ones.

Take Survey Now

The Urban Forestry Administration’s very interesting maps and other data are available for you, too.

Urban Forestry Administration

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