Saving Our Diminishing Tree Canopy

By Anne Bodine

Several months ago, after a lively discussion at an LPCA meeting, the association’s co-presidents encouraged a group of Lyon Park tree lovers to form the Lyon Park Tree Group to explore how to save or boost our precious tree canopy. 

Our Canopy is Shrinking!  Lyon Park lost 11% of its canopy from 2011-2016, the highest percentage of any large civic association in Arlington. The canopy reduction from 2000-2016 was a worrisome 23%. Here are additional key facts that drive the mission of our group:  

Lyon Park Area and Tree Canopy

Total land area30 acres
Potential tree canopy cover59%
Actual tree canopy cover34%
Land area that could be covered with canopy but currently is not25%
Based on 2017 county data

Trees are vital to human and planetary health, and we need more, not less of them. Trees cool and raise the value of our homes, they absorb stormwater and pollutants, they control erosion, sequester carbon, offer stress relief/shade, and provide habitat for birds and other animals. Despite these crucial qualities, we are well below the landscape space that could be planted with trees. As the table above indicates, 25% of the land in Lyon Park could be covered with canopy but is not. 

To increase our canopy, the Lyon Park Tree Group has taken the following actions:

  1. Begun identifying lots where we will approach owners to ask if they would like to receive one of the free trees available through Arlington’s Tree Canopy Fund;
  2. Met with two Alexandria women who increased the canopy in their neighborhood by almost 300 trees via outreach to neighbors. We hope to launch a similar effort in mid-September; 
  3. Coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Arlington’s Urban Forestry Office to green a section of Route 50 near Cambridge Courts with 129 new trees;
  4. Created an interactive map of the trees in Lyon Park, showing approximate age and species/genus. We were helped by group member and Lyon Park tree steward Bill Anhut. We drew on a 100-year-old map showing the full scope of waterways – part of the Long Branch of the Potomac River – that transected the park back in the day. 

But the volunteer Tree Group can’t do this alone. Community involvement is key to restoring canopy. You can get new trees for free for your property through the Tree Canopy Fund, you can help get more trees planted on other properties, or you can volunteer to save trees via activities such as cutting invasives. Email if interested. Read the Arlington County Tree Canopy Report.