140-Year-Old Ginkgo Tree Mistakenly Cut Down in Farragut Square

First mistaken identity, then weather postpone date with the ax

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The mistaken removal of a 140-year-old tree from a downtown park sparked some outrage in D.C. News4's Tom Sherwood reports. (Published Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013)

    Removing a certain gnarled ash tree in Farragut Square has become something of a chore for the National Park Service, which oversees the downtown park.

    Earlier this week, the mistaken removal of a 140-year-old ginkgo tree instead of the ash sparked some outrage in D.C.

    “Some of the trees in this park do date back into the mid-to-late-1800s,” said Jenny Anzelmo Sarles, of U.S. Park Service. “We know that this tree was planted some time before 1886.”

    The Park Service is investigating the cutting down of the male ginkgo and could fine the contractor, who has apologized.

    “They were under contract and asked to remove [the ash] on the opposite side of the park,” Anzelmo said.

    That tree was properly marked for removal.

    Washington Post columnist John Kelly first disclosed the tree mistake in his column Tuesday.

    “People are outraged,” he said. “The emails and calls I've gotten from readers, they're just saddened.”

    Mark Buscaino, who runs Casey Trees, a nonprofit helping to replant thousands of trees in a city where the canopy has dropped from 50 percent to 36 percent in recent decades, agreed a qualified arborist should be on site before any mature tree is cut down.

    “Well, it's just sickening,” he said. “I know that park. I've actually sat under that ginkgo tree just like many other people have.”

    Though it wouldn't bring the gingko tree back, the Park Service was set to take the ash down at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. However, the chilly, drizzly weather intervened, and the cutting was postponed to next weekend. They'll try again on February 23, weather permitting.