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Residents, City Still In Dispute On Trees

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 25, 2004; Page DZ03

The debate over 13 trees in Barnaby Woods remains unresolved because District officials and an arborist representing neighborhood residents have yet to agree on which ones should be removed.

The D.C. Division of Transportation began studying the trees after Pepco undertook an aggressive pruning program in the neighborhood two months ago to prevent power outages.

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Michelle Pourciau, deputy director for DDOT, said the disagreement centers on six trees. She said Ainsley Caldwell, the District's chief forester, concluded that five of the six trees should be removed after inspecting them with a new device designed to measure decay.

But arborist Keith Pitchford, who used a Resistograph, which measures a tree's density by drilling a tiny hole, found that only one of the six trees should be taken down.

Pourciau said Caldwell is assessing his findings.

She cautioned that the agency will have to take action by Dec. 31, the end of a 90-day moratorium on tree removal that was ordered by DDOT.

"If we don't come up with a consensus by the end of December, we will have to go with what Ainsley said," she said.

Caldwell and Pitchford, she said, have agreed on the fate of seven other trees in the neighborhood, deciding that one should be pruned and that six others, including four oaks, should be removed.

"They've been found to be hazardous or not able to be pruned in a way that they could be maintained in a non-hazardous state," she said.

Pourciau said District officials were to have met with residents Monday night, but the meeting has been postponed until Dec. 13.

Barbara Gray, a neighborhood resident, said she remains hopeful that the residents' prodding will help save a number of the trees. "We're not going to give up at all," she said. "To say that these trees are suddenly dangerous is just ridiculous."

Barnaby Woods residents protested in September after discovering that Pepco was ready to cut down from five to seven trees that it had identified as hazardous to the electrical lines.

Pepco's tree-cutting policy expanded after Hurricane Isabel forced hundreds of trees to fall over power lines last year and left residents across the District and Maryland without electricity.

Pepco is evaluating 50 power lines in the region, including the one in Barnaby Woods, to ensure that they won't be toppled by falling trees. The District recently purchased a new device known as the Tree Radar Unit, which is about half the width of a shoe box, weighs about three pounds and measures tree density.

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