Watergate residents must pay for Sycamore removal

A representative for Watergate residents said they’re willing to pay for the removal of nine sycamore trees outside the well-known complex after a National Park Service spokesman said there is no federal funding to pay for the removal of the trees.

Complaints about the sycamores blocking Potomac River views and potentially lowering property values were brought to the National Capital Planning Commission last month. The agency decided last week to recommend the Park Service look at alternatives for the trees, provided that funding is available.

The NCPC – which approves and gives advice on projects like parks, memorials and museums in the capital region – voted Feb. 3 for the Park Service to “consider using an alternative Sycamore tree, or another species of comparable size,” according to its website.

The Park Service said funding does not exist, and if residents wanted the trees removed they’d have to shell out the money from their own pockets.

“There’s absolutely no public funding from Congress available for it, whatsoever,” Park Service spokesman Bill Line said.

Line said if residents want to replace the existing trees, they will have to meet parameters set by the Park Service, including raising money for the replanting of the trees elsewhere and for installation of new trees.

Liz Sara, a representative of Watergate South’s board of directors, said residents committed to the replanting months ago, and are now working with the Park Service to set up a meeting to begin the process of replacing the sycamores that were planted in 2009.

“Either way, the big ones are going,” Sara said of the sycamores that can grow more than 100 feet tall.

She said she was confident that residents and the Park Service could reach an agreement on a shorter type of tree, but she said the cost for the trees hasn’t been determined yet.

Even if funds are raised privately, the Park Service could still refuse to redo the plantings, Line said, as the property is federally owned.

Line said last month the sycamore trees were chosen for historical accuracy, and noted that the trees’ root system can help prevent soil erosion. Along with its recommendation for the sycamore trees, the commission approved plans for Phase III of the Georgetown Waterfront Park project. New bikeways, walkways, tree plantings and other enhancements are already in place from Thompson Boat Center to the Kennedy Center.

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