Woodlands Management Plan. (Draft June 2011) A. Definition of Woodlands Areas vs. Landscaped Areas of Parkfairfax

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1 Woodlands Management Plan (Draft June 2011) I. Background A. Definition of Woodlands Areas vs. Landscaped Areas of Parkfairfax The woodlands are defined as those wooded areas of Parkfairfax which are left natural and are not generally landscaped or maintained on a regular basis by the Landscape Director. Of the 132 acres comprising Parkfairfax, less than one-tenth are covered by buildings and approximately 22.5 acres are woodlands. The woodlands are divided into six main areas (200 Martha Custis Fence Line Woods, 500 Lyons Lane Woods, 600 Valley Gunston Woods, 700 Ward III Woods, 800 Coryell Woods, and 900 Mt. Eagle Woods) and two much smaller areas (300 Martha Custis Woods). See Appendix 1 for maps outlining the general dimensions of the eight woodland areas. B. Woodlands of Parkfairfax Background and Justification According to the Parkfairfax application form for the National Register of Historic Places (Sept. 14, 1998), the woodlands were part of the original design of Parkfairfax: Site planners also purposely maintained quite large tracts of woodlands, and the community has developed unpaved walking paths throughout these glens. The woodland areas were intentionally reserved by the community planners to attract birds.... Certain areas near Mt. Eagle, Ravensworth, and Ripon Places have been maintained as woodlands since the neighborhood s construction. As the application form further notes, trees have always been a defining feature of Parkfairfax, in both the woodlands and the landscaped areas: The most striking aspect of the Parkfairfax Historic District s landscape is its trees. Although many native species of trees were initially removed to facilitate construction, the community s landscape plan called for the planting of numerous specimen trees. These trees help to define the bucolic and mature character of the community. As the 21 st century unfolds, the trees of Parkfairfax and especially our natural woodland areas, have become even more important than the site planners originally envisioned. Our trees shade our buildings and grounds in the hot summer months, lowering air conditioning bills and providing a noticeable drop in temperature as one walks beneath them. In winter the hardwood trees, which shed their leaves, allow sunlight to filter through when we need it most. Our trees absorb traffic noise and pollution and their roots stabilize slopes and reduce erosion and storm water runoff into Four Mile Run. Our woodlands filter water percolating through the ground and provide protection from flooding and high winds. The water filtering and slope stabilizing functions are especially enhanced in areas where a diversity of native plants surrounds the trees, as opposed to monocultures of English ivy. A diversity of native 1

2 plants and trees 1 provides much needed habitat for native birds and insects. Native birds are adapted to the plants, trees and insects that evolved together in Northern Virginia in prehistoric times. Over the last 60 years native trees and plants have increasingly been removed and the soil drastically disturbed (as during construction and landscaping). The natives have often been replaced on purpose or crowded out over time with invading exotic plants, whose invasiveness increases in disturbed soils. As a result, the habitat for our native birds and other wildlife has shrunk and many have had to go elsewhere or die. While exotic plants may produce berries and seeds, these do not supply the nutrients that native birds need to survive the winter months. The birds may eat them for lack of anything better, thus assisting in spreading the exotics. Sometimes the exotic fruits eaten by native birds actually make the birds ill, as in the case of berries produced by English ivy, which cause diarrhea in native birds. According to Rod Simmons, Natural Resource Specialist and Plant Ecologist for the City of Alexandria and Site Registry Chair for the Virginia Native Plant Society, the 600 Valley Drive woods contain native plants that are now rare in Alexandria. Mr. Simmons advises that in areas where a healthy seed bank still exists, the natives will regenerate once the exotic plants are removed. C. Goals and Objectives of the Woodlands Program In keeping with the original plan of Parkfairfax as a park and the intention of the planners to attract native birds, the goal of the Woodlands Program is to enhance and maintain the health and native biodiversity of the woodlands. The primary objectives are to protect native trees and plants and to restore native habitat to woodland areas damaged by disturbance from construction activities and long term invasion by exotic plants. In accomplishing these objectives, the Woodlands Program seeks to educate the Parkfairfax community about the benefits of healthy woodlands and also to work in an advisory role with Management in protecting and managing the woodlands. II. Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines to be followed by Residents and Management A. Planting and Landscape Work in Woodland Areas The woodlands are part of the general common element of Parkfairfax, therefore residents shall not plant anything in the woodlands without permission of the Covenants Committee. The procedure for submitting an application for planting in the general common element is explained in Administrative Resolution No. 2, Design Review Procedures and Guidelines Relating to Changes to Units or Common Elements, Section IV. A. and D. The Covenants Committee shall refer to the Woodlands Management Plan, Appendices II, III, and V, when considering resident applications for planting in the limited common elements or common elements bordering or extending into the woodlands. See Appendix II for a listing of native 1 Defined as those plant and tree species documented to be growing naturally within Eastern North America, having had an historical presence since the time of European contact. 2

3 plants recommended for planting in areas bordering the woodlands. See Appendix III for a listing of non-native invasive plants that are harmful to native woodlands and are not permitted in the common elements bordering or extending into the woodlands. See Appendix V for a listing of unit addresses bordering the woodlands. The Landscape Director, in consultation with the Woodlands Committee, will review all plant applications for areas bordering or extending into the woodlands prior to the Covenants Committee s review. Unit owners are responsible for keeping any non-native invasive plants in their gardens from encroaching on the woodlands. 2 Violations will be addressed by the Covenants Committee. Residents who live adjacent to woodland areas are encouraged to plant any of the native plants listed or referenced in Appendix II in their garden areas that border on the woodlands. Conversely, exotic invasive plants such as those listed in Appendix III, are not permitted in areas bordering the woodlands (see Appendix V) Residents may not remove any natural material (sticks, branches, leaves, dead plants or trees, living plants or trees, stones, or dirt) 3 from the woodlands unless they are doing so as part of a Woodlands Committee project. No plant debris, piles of leaves, garbage, or other material from outside the woodlands may be dumped in the woodlands. This includes clippings from shrub or tree trimming, dead house or garden plants, flower pots, dirt, charcoal, construction debris, pet waste, or other trash. 4 Residents may not do any landscaping in woodland areas, introduce any landscape timbers or other materials into the woodlands, or perform any activity that alters the ground or soil in the woodlands. Examples of such ground altering activities include riding skateboards, bicycles, wagons or motorized vehicles through the woods, starting fires, cooking on grills or over campfires, mulching, building walls or pathways, installing paving stones, or digging for any reason unless previously approved by Covenants Committee for the purpose of planting approved plants. See A.R. #2, p. 15, Section IV. D. Planting projects using native plants may be undertaken in certain woodland areas by the Woodlands Committee to restore native habitat. Such projects shall only be initiated in areas where the soil has experienced long term disturbance due to damage from construction and/or exotic invasive plants. 2 See A.R. #2, p. 9, Section IV. A. 1. j. Invasive non-native plants such as those listed in Appendix III are harmful to woodlands because they crowd out or strangle native plants and trees, produce chemicals that change the soil composition and can poison native plants and trees, decrease the native plant diversity necessary to sustain native insects, birds and wildlife, and eventually form monocultures where few other plants can survive. 3 See A.R. #2, p. 15, Section IV. D. Plant materials provide nourishment to the soil as they decay and are a food and shelter source for native insects, birds, and other wildlife. The removal of plant materials, stones and dirt from the woodlands encourages erosion. 4 See A.R. #2, p. 15, Section IV. D. These materials, in addition to being unsightly, can introduce seeds from invasive, non-native plants, and smother, damage or kill native vegetation. 3

4 Planting projects using native plants may also be undertaken by the Landscape Director in areas lacking vegetation due to storm damage or removal of exotic invasive plants. Whenever possible, major landscape work and disturbance of the soil and tree roots shall be avoided. The Landscape Director shall instruct landscape contractors to avoid blowing, raking, or piling large quantities of leaves and other landscape debris in the woodlands. B. Erosion Concerns Resident or Management concerns about erosion within a woodland area will be assessed by the Landscape Director. The Landscape Director will inform the Woodlands Chair of any area where erosion is a problem and will discuss plans for controlling the erosion. The Woodlands Chair will recommend native plantings to use in the problem area. The Landscape Director will use only native plants in woodland areas where plantings are part of erosion control (see Appendix II for list of recommended native plants). C. Pruning or Removal of Woodland Trees Resident or management concerns or complaints about trees within woodland areas will be assessed by the Landscape Director. Residents should refer to Procedures for Requesting and Approval of Tree Removal (include link to document). The Landscape Director will inform the Chair of the Woodlands Committee in advance of a healthy tree needing to be cut down and will consider any concerns the Woodlands Chair may have. If necessary, the Landscape Director will submit a single recommendation to the Board of Directors for decision. It will not be necessary for the Landscape Director to notify the Woodlands Committee in advance of pruning a woodland tree, unless major pruning work involving many trees is anticipated. Dead Trees Dead trees in woodland areas shall be left standing unless the Landscape Director determines that the tree is in danger of falling on a building, sidewalk, tot lot, pathway, roadway, or vehicle parking area. Where possible, such trees will be topped so that the lower portion of the dead tree (to a height determined by the Landscape Director) is left standing. 5 Fallen trees and branches Trees or branches that have fallen completely within a woodland area shall be left where they fell unless the Landscape Director determines that the fallen tree or branch is unduly obstructing a major woodland path, sidewalk, tot lot, roadway, or vehicle parking area. The Woodlands Committee may request the removal of very large fallen branches or trees if they are causing substantial damage to adjacent trees. Tree remains that have been cut up in most cases should be left in the woods, except when they are so large or numerous that they would substantially alter the normal appearance or health of the woodlands if not removed. The Landscape Director 5 Dead trees are natural to woodlands and are a food and shelter source for native insects, birds and other wildlife, in addition to providing nutrition to the soil as they decay. 4

5 should instruct the landscape crew or contractors to avoid further damage to adjacent trees and plants in the course of cutting and leaving portions of trees in the woodlands. D. Control of Exotic Invasive Plants The Woodlands Committee monitors the woodlands for the presence of exotic invasive plants. Whenever feasible, committee members remove these plants by hand. If the Woodlands Committee determines that additional or contracted assistance is needed to remove the exotic plants, management shall be alerted. The Woodlands Committee will work with management and contractors to facilitate control of exotic invasives and protection of native trees and plants. The Landscape Director will be responsible for directing contractors. Appendix IV provides a history of the Woodlands Program and Invasives Removal funding ( ). Funding for the control of exotic invasive plants shall be provided for in the Association s Reserve Study based on recommendations from the Woodlands Committee and approval by the Landscape Director. E. Poison Ivy in the Woodlands Poison Ivy is a native plant that can be invasive in disturbed areas. While it is considered undesirable by humans, the berries are an important food source for birds. The Woodlands Program does not intend to remove poison ivy systematically, however it may be removed in certain situations when it is hampering the removal of targeted exotic species. The Parkfairfax Landscape crew is trained in the use of herbicides and may treat poison ivy encroaching on certain woodland trails at the request of residents. Residents should never use herbicides themselves in the woodlands, but may request that Management implement treatment of poison ivy along specified woodland trails. F. Professional Assessment of the Woodlands The Woodlands Committee recommends that the woodlands be assessed periodically (once every 5-10 years) by an independent professional urban forester. The purpose of the assessment is to determine the overall health of the woodlands and the relative proportions of native vs. nonnative trees and plants. The assessment should include a written report for the Board of Directors. III. Roles of the Woodlands Committee, Landscape Committee, and Covenants Committee in relation to decisions about plants and trees in the Woodlands. While the Covenants Committee reviews resident s requests for planting in the general common element, in the case of areas bordering the woodlands, the Woodlands Committee should be consulted and shall provide recommendations of appropriate native plants for areas bordering or extending into the woodlands. Any planting in such areas proposed by residents must comply with the provisions of A.R. #2 dealing with Woodlands (See A.R. #2, Section IV. A. and D). The Landscape Director, in consultation with the Woodlands Committee, will review all plant applications for areas bordering or extending into the woodlands prior to the Covenants Committee s review. 5

6 In the past, the Landscape Committee, in consultation with the Landscape Director, had reviewed all requests for removal of trees in both the Landscape and the Woodlands. It is now agreed that the Woodlands Committee will review any requests that involve woodland trees, in consultation with the Landscape Director. 6

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