Our First "Save the Big Trees Day"

by Phil Thorson

Sycamore Islander, July 2001


The crew assembles, brandishing their weapons
The crew assembles, brandishing their weapons

This is to bring you John Matthews' and my special thanks for all you Islanders did to make "Save the Big Trees Day" a success. The dead vine remnants that droop in the areas we worked on tell what a difference 24 caring workers made that day, safeguarding, for at least this growing season, a big share of the endangered trees there.

Another outcome we sensed was the general enthusiasm of those who worked amid their happiness that something was finally being done about a too long neglected problem We thought the mix of the participants was encouraging too -- ages, young to old (though no teen-agers); sexes, one-third being energetic women; and affiliations, 14 from Sycamore Island, 8 from conservation related organizations like the Potomac Conservancy, plus others from nearby communities. (One, in fact, was a walk-on who spotted the activity while passing by, went home to change clothes, and came right back.

Tryon Wells pulls away a tangle of kudzu
Tryon Wells pulls away a tangle of kudzu

There were some disappointments though. One was the absence of media coverage, despite detailed invitations to the main papers and TV stations downtown and two County papers. One TV crew called twice to be sure the activity would go on in threatening weather, but never arrived. Another downer was the strictures the Park Service announced on Kudzu cutting on its land near the Canal and on volunteers working without Park representatives being present.

The Captain saws a huge ivy vine
The Captain saws a huge ivy vine

For the many who expressed their hopes that the effort will go on, we feel sure it will. The next organized event or events will probably be in October to spray the re-growths from the cut stems in order to kill the extensive root systems. Our hope is that in time interim individuals and small groups will find a few hours to cut the Kudzu and Porcelain Berry vines that remain untouched at the ends of the largest patch targeted along MacArthur Boulevard so their re-growths can be similarly treated come October. And in the same vicinity there arc plenty of trees that need to be freed from their loads of English Ivy.

Sally Strain takes a break from cutting for a little swinging action
Sally Strain takes a
break from cutting for a
little swinging action


Anyhow, having made a great start, let's keep in touch. John or I would especially appreciate any suggestions as to how the treatment methods can be improved and how we can attract more participants and media attention for future STBT Days.