By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 13, 2010; B01
John Mathwin of Rockville was met with surprise on what should have been a typical day fishing with his grandchildren. He launched his canoe one day last month and paddled upstream. But when he looked across the river to the Virginia side, Mathwin was shocked: An acre of trees had disappeared from the shoreline.
"Where there was once trees, now there's virtually nothing," he said. "I couldn't believe it."
Two weeks ago, Mathwin and a friend canoed up the river and counted about 465 tree stumps. Mathwin, who has fished along the Potomac for more than 30 years, said he is concerned that floodwater "will eat away at the unprotected banks," sending dirt and chemicals into the river.
But officials with the Trump Organization said the trees threatened the shoreline. Many of the trees, which included American elms, green ashes and black locusts, were under stress and eroding the soil, the officials said.
"When you have weak trees, they're subject to disease, and it spreads," said Ed Russo, an environmental expert with the Trump Organization. "When they fall over, they uproot the soil and create a very dangerous erosion problem."
The trees were removed during the renovation of the club's two golf courses, slated to open in the spring. The company did not need county permission to cut down trees, but it did notify Loudoun officials of its plans.
The county's urban forester reviewed the plans and made some recommendations, said Danny Davis, chief of staff for county administration.
Loudoun officials did not oppose cutting down some unhealthy trees, but "I don't believe we felt that the extent of the removal was necessary," Davis said. "We recommended additional measures or different approaches, but we had no means whereby we could require them to do what we were suggesting."
County officials are working on adopting portions of the state's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which would impose additional water-quality measures and protect trees that act as stream buffers.
Russo said the company will eventually plant some mature trees, including maples, along the shoreline. It already has planted about 100 trees elsewhere on the property.
For now, a thick layer of grass has been added to stabilize the soil and improve the filtration system.
But Hedrick Belin, president of the Potomac Conservancy in Silver Spring, said he hopes that more trees are planted.
"Having grass is helpful, but trees are able to absorb more water and filter more water than grass," he said.
Company officials said the Trump Organization spent about $1 million removing the trees and cleaning the riverbank, which was polluted with trash and debris.
"It was equivalent to a dump. Lord knows how many years people were dumping refrigerators, tires, cinder block along the riverbank," said Thomas F. Nevin, the golf club's general manager. "It was just incredible the stuff we pulled out of there."
Russo said Trump is a "big supporter" of trees and was initially reluctant to take them down.
"He wasn't happy with this at all, but I kept going over and over the fact that if you don't stabilize the shoreline, it could take out a significant amount of the golf course," Russo said.