Take a Stroll to a Notable Tree via Crozet Trails

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Steve Kostiw with the giant beech tree included in the Crozet Trails tree project. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

It was a match made in heaven, coming together just in time for earth day. The Crozet Trails Crew has partnered with the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards to identify and highlight certain trees along the trails, marking them with their names, typical habitat and characteristic features. It’s a painless way for local hikers, bikers and runners to absorb a little education with their recreation.

Both groups hope the knowledge will encourage trail users to explore ways to work for the sustainability of all our resources, said Steve Kostiw, the project’s organizer. The idea came about when Kostiw, a long-time Crozet Trails Crew member, joined the Stewards, a group that is increasingly expanding its tree recognition west of Charlottesville. The group recently paid its respects to the centuries-old Greenwood Tree at Emmanuel Episcopal Church; and participated, with the Albemarle Department of Recreation, in honoring a huge boundary oak at Mint Springs Park. (See related story, below)

Kostiw sees it as a natural outgrowth of the work of the Trails Crew, which for years has hacked, mowed, pruned and built bridges in its determination to connect Crozet one neighborhood at a time. Since constant construction is the new reality in Crozet, traversing the space between neighborhoods via the woods, fields and water allows us to avoid the sounds and clutter of development. Instead, Kostiw notes, we can travel “…while soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature.” There are presently about six miles of trails.

Like us, trees prefer certain neighborhoods in Crozet, choosing to put down their roots by the side of a lake; or in a mature forest, a transition forest, a swamp, by a creek or in an open meadow. Crozet’s diverse environment provides all of these, so the Tree Walk Project quickly found dozens of varieties of native tree species along the greenway, including several considered “notable:” a six-foot wide tulip tree, a five-foot wide American beech, an unusual American Hornbeam, and a massive clump of Hazel Alder, all thriving in their own specific habitats.

Can’t tell a Hornbeam from a Hazel Alder? Help is on the way. The combined efforts of the two groups will tag trees along the greenway and make it easy for the public to get close by constructing short paths to notable trees, in some cases even installing benches. They’ll produce a trail map and brochure, and post all the information online. Future plans provide for the protection of the native trees by removing invasive species and controlling access to selected trees. 

The Mint Springs “Boundary Tree” up close. Submitted photo.

Mint Springs Tree Elevated to “Landmark” Status

A short ceremony and another proof that Crozet has plenty of trees to be proud of was provided by the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards on Arbor Day, April 29. The Mint Springs Park Boundary Oak was chosen as a “Landmark Tree,” a category that Stewards President Robin Hanes said is reserved for the biggest, most beautiful trees in highly visible locations.

White Hall Supervisor Ann Mallek and CATS President Robin Hanes at the boundary tree. Photo: Jim Barbour

The huge northern red oak is a short hike up to the boundary on the Mint Springs fire trail. Not only did the tree get an identifying sign, but also a hug from several of the Stewards and a listing on the website, www.notabletrees.org/landmark-trees/. 

Mint Spring’s Red Oak awarded “Landmark Tree” status. Photo: Jim Barbour.

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