Tree Plan Essential

As chairman of the Town of Leesburg's tree commission, I want to thank Loudoun Extra for the "Leesburg's Tree Whisperer" article [April 18].

Coverage of how our town's arborist aims to reverse tree loss typifies the kind of awareness and education that Leesburg needs to rebuild our community forest.

However, an important point missing from the article is that the first step to reversing this local destructive trend in Leesburg will occur once the Town Council approves the funding for an urban forestry master plan. In fact, they did so May 25. The next step is for this request to be matched dollar for dollar with an urban forestry and community assistance grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service.

A large portion of the plan would include a reforestation effort designed to reverse the steady decline of Leesburg's urban forest by simply planting more trees to rebuild the lost tree canopy. This ties in with the tree commission's mandate to plot a healthy course for Leesburg's trees and the goal of restoring the town to a 40 percent tree cover by 2023.

There are some unique values associated with a suburbanized community's forest. A thriving urban forest improves living and shopping experiences. It enhances property values and lowers crime rates. Trees have an impact on air quality, prevent soil erosion and are an integral part of storm-water retention.

For example, a recent study by American Forests showed that the town lost 71 percent of its mature tree canopy from 1992 to 2001. The study noted that with this staggering loss of Leesburg's mature trees, we now annually lose $8.6 million worth of natural storm-water retention services, and 4.3 million cubic feet of dirty storm water is added directly to our streams.

Trees are an important part of our community's infrastructure. We need more trees, please.

Earl W. Hower

Leesburg

Misled on Route 15

I don't suppose many people will take seriously Ian Cunningham's satirical proposal to wipe out the town of Lucketts with a new limited-access superhighway replacing historic Route 15 between Leesburg and the Point of Rocks bridge ["A Logical Way to Go," Letters, Loudoun Extra, May 27].

But it is worth correcting one point that might mislead readers: Contrary to what Cunningham said, Maryland has not "already started widening the road to the Point of Rocks bridge" on its side of the river. Not only is this untrue, but Maryland has stated that it has no intention of ever doing so. The reason is both safety and economics.

Maryland has received national scenic byway status for Route 15 along its entire length from Point of Rocks to the Pennsylvania line. In recognition of the $32,000 in additional tourism revenue that scenic byway status brings in each year for every lane-mile of roadway -- and the increased safety that results from matching the design speed of a road to its posted speed limit -- Maryland's scenic byway management plan calls for creating a "park-like" setting for Route 15 by narrowing road width, removing paved shoulders and restoring tree lines and natural vegetation.

Frederick County is in the process of permanently removing from its master plan the old proposal to widen Route 15 to four lanes between Point of Rocks and the Route 340 junction. Similarly, Virginia Department of Transportation officials have stated that Route 15 from Leesburg to Point of Rocks -- which is a designated Virginia scenic byway and passes through the Catoctin Rural Historic District -- will remain two lanes into the foreseeable future.

Stephen Budiansky

Lucketts