Destroying an old oak tree on Old Courthouse Road will not bring back the life of the unfortunate teen-ager who died when his car left the road and hit the tree. Don't kill the tree!
That tree is magnificent. It is a valued part of a rapidly disappearing rural environment. We can widen roads or move them a few feet in 60 or fewer days. "But only God can make a tree . . . " -- and this one took at least 150 years to build.
This summer another young man died on this same road. I heard the early-morning accident and called the Fairfax County police, who impressed me beyond belief by responding with ambulances and police cars in what seemed like fewer than five minutes. In that accident the car hit first a tree in front of my property and then careened 40 feet or so to hit a second tree in front of my neighbor's property. There the car stopped. It must have been going very fast if it required two trees to make it stop.
The point is this: even if we cut down all the trees in Northern Virginia, where trees are a climax crop, we will not be able to protect drivers against their own driving habits.
There is a curved crossing nearby over Wolf Trap Run. Several accidents have occurred at the stream. Yet I have not heard anyone suggest that we should kill the stream.
Several years back in a 10-day period two drivers aimed their cars at and through my front fence. No casualties, thank God! But no one cried out for me to remove my fence.
I have lived on Old Courthouse Road, not far from Wolf Trap Farm Park and near the border of the town of Vienna, for 24 years. My own four children when they were teen-agers learned, without difficulty, to drive on this road.
To understand our oasis you must understand that the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and zoning people insist that this is and should be a large-lot zoning area. Most people live on two or more acres, even though it is only a one mile from Tysons Corner. The county board and zoners seem to want to maintain a rural atmosphere.
A bit of imagination could retain that atmosphere and bring a solution to the problem of the road. Do what the residents insisted on in the Westwood Country Club area in the town of Vienna: restrict the use of certain streets and roads to people who live on them or people who are making deliveries. This would probably require some state legislation, but it is a solution for the many small, winding roads that exist all over the Old Dominion and certainly in western Fairfax County.
Old Courthouse Road more or less parallels Rte. 7. Drivers use it to avoid Rte. 7 traffic, thereby putting a load on the old road, which the modest alterations under discussion will in no way solve. Restricting the road's use is a simple idea, but a good one. It would save the rather impoverished Virginia highway department considerable money too.
In addition, I invite the Fairfax County Police to use my driveway any night they wish, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays which are the worst, to set up a mobile radar station. A few weeks of consistent monitoring, accompanied by the issuance of speeding tickets and by the administration of alcohol tests, would do wonders for local traffic safety. We are a rich county. We will soon build a multimillion dollar governmental complex. We can easily afford more of our good policemen (at higher pay, I hope) to enforce driving sanity.
Just walk outside one summer night between midnight and 2 a.m. and listen to the screeching of the tires. It is not the fault of the tree, or of the Wolf Trap stream, or of my fence. Fast, young drivers, who are convinced they are immortal, love Old Courthouse Road and its curves as a place to test their driving skills. Cutting down that monumental old tree, which in a national park would be a shrine, will neither remove the curves nor eliminate irresponsible driving. -- Martha Shea McDowell