The cutting and disposal of a dozen mature trees into the Potomac River nearly two weeks ago at the Trump National Golf Course violated Loudoun County’s zoning ordinance, the county said, and could cost the organization at least $600.
The downed trees were spotted Feb. 23 by Steven McKone, director of the Calleva River School, as he kayaked the river. Subsequent paddlers and boaters saw about a dozen stumps 14 to 24 inches in width, and large tree trunks in the Potomac.
The removal of the trees from a flood plain along the river requires a permit, which the golf course did not obtain, county officials said in a news release Wednesday, and violates three sections of the zoning code.
The county ordered the golf course to stop all activity in the flood plain until it obtains the necessary permits.
Trump golf course officials, who have 30 days to appeal the violations, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The initial fine is $200 per violation. That would rise to $500 every 10 days after the appeal period passes if the golf course does not secure the necessary permits. Loudoun officials said they will inspect the property every 10 days.
Phillip Musegaas of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, who also saw the felled trees and cleared land, said he was glad Loudoun is holding the golf course accountable. About 1,000 people have signed the organization’s petition to protest the tree cutting and dumping.
“We’d like to see the county require them to replant the trees — that seems like a reasonable correction,” Musegaas said.
Trees in a waterway can create dangerous conditions. Currents can pull watercraft into the branches, then trap boaters underwater. In addition, trees along riverbanks are among the best ways to protect water quality and aquatic life and prevent erosion, environmental advocates say.
The state of Maryland, which controls the river up to the Virginia riverbank, checked the area over the weekend. A spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police said the agency found no hazards at that time.
In 2010, the Trump club cut more than 400 trees from its property when it renovated its courses.
Nine months later, Donald Trump told a Washington Post reporter that the tree removal was done to create a better view.