Woodstock builds tree canopy

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — Joan Comanor says she wants to “keep the woods in Woodstock.”

Comanor and a group of volunteers and town staff helped do just that on Wednesday by planting several dozen trees along Main Street as part of a plan to increase the canopy. The group planted several dozen trees along the sidewalk from Mill Road to East South Street.

More than 20 people from the Woodstock Tree Board, the Enhancement Committee and town government volunteered to plant trees. Volunteers and staff began the effort around 8:30 a.m. and finished planting the last of the trees before 11:30 a.m.

Comanor, who chairs the Tree Board, said the Wednesday planting comes after years of talking and planning. Part of the project involved planning where the town would plant each tree.

“We shouldn’t have any future problems of trees and utility wires in conflict, and also it has to be very hearty,” Comanor said. “These are pretty harsh conditions.”

Most of the trees planted Wednesday should grow no taller than 20 feet, said Tree Board member and arborist Warren Schennum, who demonstrated to the group how to properly plant containerized trees.

“The soil was excellent,” Schennum said. “Usually in-town soil’s pretty good. It’s just old, mature soil and it’s been under conditions creating soil structure and organic matter breaking down.”

The group planted lacebark elm, honey locust, serviceberry and Japanese stewartia, Schennum said.

“We tried to pick trees that don’t have a fruit problem or heavy seed pod problem — anything that’s in parking zones that would create a problem,” Schennum said.

The group planted all but nine of the 43 trees. Staff plan to plant the remaining cornelian cherries, a hornbeam, a black gum, a serviceberry and a honey locust by the end of the week, said Angela Clem, assistant town planner and risk manager.

Schennum suggested that other towns and urban areas should look into planting trees. However, the species planted should match the size of the area.

The town received a $7,000 grant through the state Department of Forestry’s Virginia Trees for Clean Water program. The grant covers the cost to buy the trees, soil and mulch, Clem said. The town provided in-house labor and equipment to cover the local match for the grant, Clem said.

The town plans to apply for more grant funding that could cover the cost to plant trees along Main Street to Va. 42, Comanor said. The town likely would need about the same number of trees to plant along the south end of Main Street, Comanor said.

“We also are going to encourage private landowners to see what they might be able to do in their yard, but we wanted the town to set the good example and not just saying ‘you do this’ but saying ‘we’re in it, too,'” Comanor said.

A study conducted about three or four years ago showed that Woodstock had a tree canopy of about 22 percent, Comanor recalled. The town’s goal is to increase the canopy to 30 percent. However, Comanor advised that an 8 percent increase in the canopy requires approximately 4,000-5,000 more trees.

Residents and business owners can also join the effort by participating in the town’s Tribute Tree program. People can buy a tribute tree for $150 in honor of loved ones. The price includes maintenance of the tree for its lifetime.

“The Tribute Trees makes it even more special for people,” Comanor said.

The town planted a hornbeam as a tribute tree in front of Dellinger Funeral Homes Inc. The town marked a space for an ivory silk lilac in front of Haun-Magruder Inc. insurance company. Clem said four more tribute trees have been purchased and the town plans to plant them in the next few weeks.

The Virginia Department of Transportation reviewed and approved the Main Street planting project. A professional, urban forester deemed some existing trees posed potential problems because of their proximity to power lines, size or species. Dominion Power agreed to assist Woodstock Public Works staff in removing selected trees and digging the spaces for the new plants.

Town Council approved the creation of a Tree Canopy Installation Guide last fall. The guide, developed by staff and the Tree Board, calls for an increase of the tree canopy by 8 percent over the next 20 years.

The Tree Board also developed a checklist of trees suitable for the town and in a variety of conditions, such as height and size limitations of planting sites.

A press release issued by Woodstock notes that scientific studies document the value of planting trees in urban areas to help with managing storm water runoff, temperature change, energy savings and general enhancements.

Visit www.townofwoodstockva.gov/treeboard to see the Tree Canopy Guide and more information about the effort.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com