Category Archives: Grounds Committee

Champion Trees, Champion Residents

By Alice Nicolson

Last spring many of us were thrilled to find that Collington almost had a county Champion tree in our woods – almost, because although the tree is about 200’ behind unit 5004, it is just outside our property line in the adjoining county Regent Forest Park. The tree came to our attention in 2016 because neighbors asked Davey Tree Company to clear the woodland behind their homes. The Davey arborist noticed the big tree, misidentified it as an ash, and recommended that it be treated against Emerald Ash Borer infestation (a recently arrived pest which is killing ash trees all over the country). Jane Engle contacted her friend Mike Ellis, a Prince George’s park ranger, and asked him to come over and check out this large ash since it might be a county record holder. Mike came, determined that the tree was a mockernut hickory, not an ash (so definitely not needing protection against the EAB!), took its measurements, found its location was just outside Collington property (alas!), and determined that it was indeed a Champion tree for the county. Jane was credited with nominating it (and she and Mike co-nominated two other county champions in other parks). Jane and Mike did some other tree hunting in the neighboring woodland and found one other likely candidate, but had not measured it at the time. 

tree1Pfund, Nicolson and Engle with Mockernut

This week Mike Ellis and his supervisor, Chris Garrett, came over to meet with Ken Burton, Jane’s husband, to have another look at the Mockernut and to relocate and measure the other large tree. (Kyle Olsen and I came along as well). The tree is located several hundred feet downstream from where the trail behind 5110 goes into the swampy woods and meets the stream (Bald Hill Branch) at the white bucket marker. It also is not on Collington’s property, being across the stream where the beaver was very active earlier this winter, in Enterprise Park. However, it is easily seen from our side. Chris and Mike waded across the stream (I clambered across on fallen tree trunks) determined that the tree was a bitternut hickory, measured it and checked the current record listing for that species – and we have yet another county Champion  tree not quite on Collington land!

tree2Bitternut with sign

Chris and Mike placed plaques designating both champion trees on stakes at the foot of the trees, facing Collington viewers. Both trees remind us of Jane Engle, whose love for trees inspires all who worked with her.  If you walk the woodland trail behind the 5000’s, look for the new sign there and, if you are nimble, ramble down our side of the stream and see if you can spot the big tree just across the water!

Intelligent Re-utilization of Used Materials

Contributed by Dorothy Yuan

Finally, upon the much-anticipated completion of The Landing and other revised Collington space, the temporary road used for construction can now be removed.   Instead of discarding the asphalt milling, it is being used to improve part of the perimeter trail going into the woods.

Yuan collage

Planting Collington’s First Flower Meadow

Contributed by Alice Nicolson and Marian Fuchs

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On Friday 8 December, 18 months after Jane Engle, Peter Pfund and Alice Nicolson first walked with a meadow guru around campus to evaluate the status of the various meadow areas, native plants were being installed on the slope below the beehives (on the way to the community center) to form the first flowering meadow on campus – the first of many, perhaps.

“A year from now this will be a thing of beauty,” said the supervisor of the six men doing the soil improvement and planting.  The project planting guide gives a glimpse of how things will look.  The plan for the left half of the 3000 sq ft meadow is shown below.

The large circles marked Rc will be dwarf sumac shrubs.   The smaller dots will combinations of butterfly weed, milkweed, switchgrass, white beardtongue, slender mountain mint, little bluestem, Virginia spiderwort and heartleaf golden Alexander.  (Stirring and delightful names!)

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Another portion of the planting guide, shown below, shows the color scheme of the flowers and the foliage, and their bloom time.

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Preparing the meadow was hard work.

The meadow will consist of native plants, accustomed to growing in our campus soil.  So the workmen did not improve the area.  Instead the existing lawn grass was killed and each new plant had a hole drilled to receive it. (See the man drilling above right.)  As each section was planted, a light layer of mulch was spread (see above left). This willl be the only addition to the planting area. For the first year or two the meadow will be hand-weeded, but after that it will need only a single spring mowing and once-over to remove any invasive tree seedlings.

The meadow already has people who care for it.  Snow covered the meadow the day after it was planted, but once the snow melted, the area dried quickly and our new horticulturalist, Kyle Olsen, was seen staying late to give the entire meadow a good watering.

Naming is a nuanced issue here at Collington, but many of us will always think of this area as “Jane’s Meadow.”

The Collington Road Warriors — Resurfacing Continues

From our photo correspondent Marian Fuchs, some nice photos and explanation:

This morning the crew have been paving the path behind our house.  I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures of the men and equipment at work.  It’s precision work, and fun to watch their expertise.

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Here’s a pic of the crew paving behind our house.  I was particularly impressed by the fact that this driver could do his rolling backwards as well as forwards!

Full set:

Goals, Principles, and Values in Planning

The more we get into resident participation in every level of planning, from space design to long term strategic planning, I am coming more and more to understand how important it is to structure discussions in ways that everyone can engage.  We all think about things differently, and we give our best thoughts when those thoughts are stimulated in a variety of  parallel ways.

In part it is about meeting process, listening, and meeting leadership, and there will surely be much discussion about that as we go forward.

But here I want to focus on the importance of values, goals and principles.  What I am seeing again and again is that when we get caught too early in the weeds, it is very hard to pull together and keep moving to decisions and beyond.  So I have become an advocate of focusing early on goals, values and principles, and getting agreement on those as a tool for resolving disagreements.

Some recent examples from Collington.  Back when we were discussing the so-called “transition process,” that is the process why which decisions are made about the appropriate level of care within our continuum for a resident, we started off talking about a lot of specifics, and trying to write policy out of those specifics.  There was a lot of anxiety from both residents and staff.

So we backed off, and agreed on principles first.  In particular we led with the most important principle, that of resident autonomy.  The simple idea was that absent certain very limited exceptions, the decision was ultimately that of the resident, or “patient self-detirmination,” as we called it.  The principle, particularly when expanded and qualified in other principles, made it remarkably easy to resolve other issues as they came up.  The policy summary is here.

A very different example occurred at one of the excellent meetings that the Districts have been having about how to improve our central courtyard. No suprize that that discussion brings up very powerful feelings about space, community, design, etc.  So, there it has been suggested that an initial focus on goals and principles might be very helpful, rather than getting bogged down in the merits of specific suggestions.

Here, then, are some possible goals and principles that might be a draft which, after input and changes, might be appropriate for this particular situation.  They are offered more as an example of the approach than for the specifics.

The courtyard should be usable for as large amount of the year as possible.

The courtyard should be usable by as high a proportion of our residents as possible.

The courtyard should provide a powerful visual focus for our community.

The courtyard should foster communication and connection within, and even beyond, our community.

The courtyard should be maintainable at a reasonable cost.

As we move forward, I think we will see more and more the utility of this approach.