Tree Debris Cleanup Will Be a Heavy Lift

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Western Ridge resident Mike Elliott helps begin a cleanup of plastic tubing from tree seedlings in fields between his neighborhood and Westhall. Photo: Ron Wade.

Several Western Ridge neighbors have noticed a troublesome situation involving a sea of uncared-for tree seedlings on the unbuilt land in the natural area that touches the backs of their neighborhood, Westlake, and Westhall near Lickinghole Creek. Western Ridge resident Heidi Brown described it as “tree strangulation,” and other neighbors have dubbed the area “the graveyard.” 

“When Westlake was built a few years ago, the developer—I guess in exchange for having to cut down a lot of trees—planted a huge number of seedlings, each wrapped in thick plastic and supported with a wooden stake, all very close together in the fields,” said Brown. “Now the trees that have survived are being strangled by the plastic and are growing fungus and tumors on their bark. Many of them have died, and now where you walk along Lickinghole Creek from the reservoir going west towards Westhall, you see fields of thousands of white plastic tubes.”

Plastic tubing and stunted trees litter the ground in fields between Western Ridge, Westhall, and Westlake in Crozet. Photo: Heidi Brown.

Brown and a few neighbors have gone out on weekends to try to clean up the trash and free the trees, but it’s a daunting task. “We spent three hours or so out there one Saturday and maybe rescued 100 trees between us, because we had to use box cutters and clippers to rip those tubes off,” she said. “We created a mountain of trash which should be recycled if possible. We realized the job is way too big for the handful of us—it’s going to take an army of people. We were thinking it could be a great project for school kids or scouts or anyone interested, but the timing is crucial right now because the trees are in an area that will be overgrown with brambles and briars in another month or two.”

Plastic tubing and stunted trees litter the ground in fields between Western Ridge, Westhall, and Westlake in Crozet. Photo: Heidi Brown.

Brown spoke before the county Board of Supervisors on February 21 to encourage them to hold developers or landowners responsible for addressing environmental problems like this. Westlake was built by Stanley Martin Homes, and the seedling fields are on property that is mostly owned by the Westlake Hills Homeowners Association which the builder still controls, but it’s not clear who was meant to be ultimately responsible for the little trees. Stanley Martin did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a beautiful area,” said Brown, “but it is just befouled by all of this plastic that’s been left behind, not to mention the trees that didn’t survive.” 

Plastic tubing and stunted trees litter the ground in fields between Western Ridge, Westhall, and Westlake in Crozet. Photo: Heidi Brown.

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