On December 12, eight Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards and four members of the CATS class of 2019 tromped into the woods of Greenleaf Park and cleared some 100 trees of invasive vines. These included English ivy and its look-alike, winter creeper, a member of the bittersweet family, or Celastraceae. Wrapping up a year that included 30 projects across our community, this work was part of an ongoing effort by CATS to restore and maintain the natural character of one of Charlottesville’s most popular greenspaces. We encourage you to walk the loop trail at Greenleaf, for which the city has installed a new bridge across the creek that runs through the 14-acre park. And please make plans to join us in our projects in 2020.
Wielding loppers and pruning saws, Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards mounted two aggressive campaigns against invasive species this past week. Undaunted by windy conditions on November 16, a hardy band of CATS members joined forces with students from U.Va.’s Madison House to clear out oriental bittersweet, porcelain berry, honeysuckle and other invaders at Jackson-Via Elementary School. Tree Stewards Elise Burroughs and Camille Wilson organized the effort to free up cherry trees and native sumac and to make room for planting more native species. CATS will work with the city and school authorities to explore further ways to improve Jackson-Via’s extensive grounds, which include a lovely wooded trail.
On November 20, the morning chill gave way to sunshine as another CATS contingent took aim at English ivy, oriental bittersweet and other vines attacking trees along the Schenks Greenway, the park that runs between McIntire Road and Schenks Branch north of the Albemarle County Office Building. Toine Wyckoff led the CATS volunteers as they followed up on our previous work to remove invasives from white pines, river birches, American hollies and other trees along the creek.
For the second year in a row, the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards paired with the Charlottesville Tree Commission to plant trees on private property around the Belmont area. With a generous grant from the Ballyshannon Fund, we acquired 23 trees for the project. On the chilly morning of November 9, five teams of CATS members and Tree Steward trainees, joined by seven members of the Tree Commission, planted the trees at various locations around the neighborhood and advised homeowners on how to maintain them.
The principal objective of these projects is to increase Charlottesville’s tree canopy, which is measured every five years by aerial photography and is on the decline. The city’s tree canopy dropped from 50 percent in 2004 to 45 percent in 2014, and we expect to see a further decrease when the next aerial survey is completed in 2020. Planting trees in the yards of homes and on other private property is critical to reversing this trend. CATS urges people in the community to help us identify other Charlottesville neighborhoods that suffer from a sparse canopy and that could benefit from the environmental and economic advantages of having more trees.