Residents protest new Watergate trees

The historic Watergate complex, perhaps best known for a 1972 break-in that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation, now faces a seemingly less dramatic dilemma: the installment of sycamore trees that may threaten the scenic views and pricey property values of the residence.?

Later this week, the National Capital Planning Commission will decide whether to keep nine newly planted trees, interspersed along the recently completed path that stretches between the Thompson Boat Center and the Kennedy Center, in front of the Watergate.

Some residents fear the new trees will obstruct their Potomac River views and voiced their concerns earlier this month at a National Capital Planning Commission meeting regarding the positioning of the new trees.

The National Park Service, while listening to neighborhood concerns about the trees, is standing behind the planting of the sycamores.

“The main purpose of these sycamore trees is for historical accuracy. The trees’ root system will also provide some added benefits, including the prevention of soil erosion,” park service spokesman Bill Line said.?

He added this plan is not entirely new.?

“There has been a plan that dates back to the 1930s that shows and demonstrates that there have been large sycamore trees in this location.?The National Park Service is making every effort to be historically accurate to what has been there,” Line said.

Yet not all residents share the same sentiment expressed by Line and the park service.

“Sycamores grow slowly and they are deciduous, so you will still be able to see the river all winter and fall,” a male resident of Watergate’s East building, who wished to remain anonymous, said.?”But many of my neighbors are quite upset.?They believe it will greatly devalue our property, and as a resident of a higher floor, I hear fears from my neighbors that their views will be completely obstructed.”

The park service’s plans for Phase III of the Georgetown Waterfront Park development include a resurfaced asphalt bikeway, a new asphalt-tile pedestrian promenade, new tree plantings and other site enhancements, along with the sycamore trees.

Caroline Simon, an upper-floor resident of the Watergate, voiced support for the cherry tree option.

“If I had to vote, I would put more cherry blossom trees. They’re so beautiful in the spring,” Simon said.

Stephen Staudigl, a spokesman for the National Capital Planning Commission, said last month seven residents testified on the issue and others submitted comments.

“We anticipate that members of the public will once again weigh-in regarding this project during our February meeting,” he said.

The National Capital Planning Commission’s meeting is set for Feb. 3.

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