Elm tree on Elm Street the focus of preservation effort

A 150-year-old tree is very close to a house that\'s being rebuilt, and neighbors are concerned about construction damage to the tree. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — A group of Chevy Chase neighbors are rallying to save a 150-year-old elm tree on Elm Street that could be the victim of a new home’s construction.

The towering elm sits between the sidewalk and the street, but its roots reach up into the front yards of a number of nearby homes, and one of the homes is being rebuilt.

The tree has already lost a few branches and some smaller roots as construction begins on the home in Chevy Chase, but this street’s namesake has a few protectors in its corner, including neighbor John Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has lived on the street since the late 90s. He says his new neighbors seem to want to keep the tree but have a permit from the city and the word of the town arborist that it’s safe to dig for a drainage tank through the tree’s root system.

Fitzgerald filed a formal complaint with the Town of Chevy Chase to review its tree protection plan in the hopes of saving the elm.

“The tree-protection ordinance is strong in the town, but they aren’t implementing it,” Fitzgerald says.

He got the opinion of Forest Bowen, a certified master arborist with Wood Acres Tree Specialists, who suggested construction machinery and digging should avoid the tree’s drip zone to keep its health intact.

Town Manager Todd Hoffman says the issue will be reviewed by the town council March 26, but Fitzgerald is worried too much damage will be done before then.

“It’s 150 years old. It’s the tree that stands for Elm Street, and Dutch elm disease took out most elms in the United States. When you find a healthy elm tree that has resisted that disease, it deserves your respect,” Fitzgerald says.

He’s hoping the homeowners will push back digging on the drainage tank until the council has reviewed his appeal.

WTOP reached out to the new homeowners but did not hear back before this article was published.

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