Ginkgo Tree Brouhaha in Town

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Ginkgo tree in fruit above 27th and O Streets in Georgetown. Georgetowner photo.

The fruit-bearing ginkgo trees in Georgetown greet residents, visitors and car owners with a smelly, messy harvest, whether underfoot or on top of one’s car windshield and hood. These trees, the female version, are plentiful around 27th Street and Olive Street and elsewhere, such as R Street. They are on the east side of town as well as on the west side, most notably along Potomac Street.

Of late, the droppings have provoked especially strong reactions — pro and con.

Two weeks ago, D.C.’s tree cutters and trimmers — the Department of Transportation’s Urban Forestry Division — were properly petitioned by Joe Gilligan and neighbors to take down two female ginkgo trees on the 2700 block of Olive Street.

The decision to cut down trees ignited an email conversation around town and the city. While some, such as Micheline Klagsbrun on N Street, thought the beauty of the ginkgo trees was worth the messy inconvenience, others commented on the cut-down process.

Sherri Kimbel, director of constituent services for the office of Council member Jack Evans, offered this perspective: “I wanted to step in and possibly clarify some of the confusion on this issue, since there have been so many emails back and forth. DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division does have a policy about female ginkgo trees. If you want to remove them, you need to get the signatures of your neighbors, and you need to replace the trees with trees approved by the UFA at your OWN COST. The applicant who wanted these two trees removed had the signatures of all of his neighbors and he is going to have them removed and replaced with male ginkgo trees. Same trees, just none of the mess and smell.

“UFA did say that they wanted to know that there was no objection by the Council member’s office or his ANC. Since he had taken all of the necessary steps and was willing to pay for the replacement, our office has no objection. We agree with all of you that we don’t want to see trees removed from our city, but these are not being removed, they are being replaced. I think this is much more of a local issue — for this street, than one for all of Georgetown, but I understand that it may now go to the ANC to discuss. But please understand that the applicant followed all the rules as required. He also had the tree sprayed in previous years, but we are well aware that the spraying only works sporadically and sadly is not an ideal solution.”

The advisory neighborhood commissioner, whose district includes Olive Street where the trees are, is Jim Wilcox, and he added this: “I have continued to receive emails and phone calls regarding this subject, and I would like to summarize where things stand. The neighbors obtained more than enough signatures to request the Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) to remove some female ginkgo trees on the block, UFA verified that the petition requirements had been met, and Jack Evans office stated that it had no objection to the removal and replacement of the trees. And UFA solicited feedback regarding whether I individually objected. Based on research that ANC 2E performed, we determined that our ANC had supported the removal of another ginkgo tree in east Georgetown unanimously in September 2015. This decision was made by other commissioners before I was elected, and I did not participate in it.

“Nevertheless, under the above circumstances I did not feel comfortable exercising some form of personal veto power in the matter. However, recognizing that this is a very controversial issue, I have carefully examined UFA’s policy, and it requires ANC 2E as a whole to vote to support removal, which it hasn’t done in this case. Since ANC 2E didn’t have adequate time to provide sufficient advance notice to consider that issue at our upcoming public meeting, we have decided to put it on our agenda for discussion and a decision at our following meeting on December 3.”

Georgetowner readers are invited to express their opinions on the Ginkgo Controversy. Send your response to editorial@georgetowner.com.

Gingko tree with its fruit above 27th and O Streets in Georgetown. Georgetowner photo.
A gingko tree’s stomped-on fruit at 27th and O Streets in Georgetown. Georgetowner photo.
Gingko tree with its fruit above 27th and O Streets in Georgetown. Georgetowner photo.
A gingko tree’s stomped-on fruit at 27th and O Streets in Georgetown. Georgetowner photo.
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