Norton Applauds Savior of Japanese Trees

Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:05pm

Ten Japanese Zelkova trees near Union Station will live a little longer after the Architect of the Capitol scrapped plans to dig them up to install a security perimeter.

The trees have decorated the front yard of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building for about 15 years. But in recent weeks, AOC officials considered removing and discarding them to make way for bollards, or short posts designed to obstruct cars.

That apparently was unacceptable to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). In a press release titled “Norton Hugs the 2nd Street Trees to Save Them,” the Delegate announced that the Architect of the Capitol has agreed to try to work around the trees.

“I admit that I wanted to hug these graceful trees,” she said. “If the trees do not survive the bollards, there will be time enough to take them down. These trees may die in time, but so do people, and we don’t kill them without exhausting all possibilities for life.”

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said officials considered removing the trees for the bollard installation and then planting new trees in their place.

But conversations with Norton and administration officials convinced them to just dig around the trees — something that has worked out in other areas of the Capitol complex. Norton will also be meeting with arborists this week.

“There’s always a risk when you’re doing the digging that you’re going to disturb the root system,” Malecki said. “We’ve done different processes [around the complex]. It’s just a matter of what’s the best course of action.”

Removing trees near the Capitol always seems to attract an outcry from tree-lovers. In 2002, Members and others railed against the planned removal of dozens of trees to make way for the Capitol Visitor Center. And as far back as 1875, then-Sen. Simon Cameron (R-Pa.) successfully lobbied to save an elm tree from destruction (it died about 130 years later).