Saving Trees from Invasive Weeds

by a DC Trail Ranger

Even in winter one of the first things that struck me about the trails we would be working on was how much green space DC has, and how much of that green space was being destroyed by invasive species.

One of the best things is that for a rare change, I was put in a position where I could actually do something about it. Trees are one of our most important resources. In a world that’s rapidly warming, they help absorb the carbon that’s heating up our planet, but they also help keep us cool with their shade. Even in 95 degrees, Marvin Gaye Trail was cool and comfortable with the shade of large trees while we worked. But to keep them, they need our help.


The sad part is many of these trees are dead or being ripped down by the weight of vines that were never meant to be here in the first place. River birches snapped in half by kudzu, branches of pines and sycamores being pulled down by porcelain berry or bittersweet, huge oaks covered in english ivy, and whole areas swamped by multiflora rose or bush honeysuckle crowding out everything and stealing the sunshine. 

The great part is, that I get to help fix it. Five minutes of snipping vines at the base of a tree means years of growth will die off and eventually fall off the trees. Sometimes I’ll find a small tree fighting for its life and with 15 minutes of careful work and it’s free to breathe and grow in the sunlight. It feels pretty great to see a tree you thought was likely dead start to bud and grow leaves.

How did we get here? 

One of the largest reasons for trees being overtaken by weed is due to the countries’ gilded age when gardens were all the rage. The more exotic the more they inspired the vision of wealth and luxury. The upper class showed wealth largely through lavish manor homes and their large estates with beautifully curated gardens. 150 years ago they simply didn’t realize that many of these plants would escape their gardens and reak havoc for the next century across the country. Many plants were spread by birds and pollinators, and many were spread by people wanting these plants in gardens of their own.

What can we do?

If you know you have an invasive plant in your yard you can remove it. Snip vines at the base and let them die off. Choose native plants for your garden and encourage your friends to do the same. Check out local programs in your area to volunteer with and encourage programs like the Trail Ranger Program to provide continuous vegetation maintenance, no one thing is a solution, but they all make a dent. 

Want to learn more about the issue? Check out these additional resources.

This Man Documented 5,000 Trees Being Killed By Vines In Takoma Park : NPR

Why Do DC’s Poorer Neighborhoods Have Fewer Trees? | WAMU

Bad berry or good berry? Porcelain Berry is a NO NO for our local forests | #CincyParks

Saving Your Neighborhood Trees from Invasive Vines

Bike to Explore

Biking allows us to go places and see sights that are impossible for other vehicles to reach. One of the best ways to explore is by biking on one of the many trails in the region. First, read about some Trail Basics and then get out to Explore our Regional Trails!

If you’re biking to explore nature, maybe to identify some trees or go bird watching, some of our trail favorites are the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, the Sligo Creek Trail, or Mount Vernon Trail. You can see the entire Capital Trail Network—existing and planned—mapped out here. You might be surprised where you’ll find little pockets of nature in our region!

We love nature pictures at WABA and want to see where you explored! Keep us updated with your bike adventures and BINGO card activities by using #BikeAnywhere or by tagging @wabadc on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Got a question? Drop a line at membership@waba.org.

Biking to Play

How can you make play time more fun? Incorporate biking! If you’re interested in finding your own biking community, or making friends to bike with, here is more information on how to find other people to ride with!

One of our favorite play activities to do outdoors is riding an ebike! Don’t have your own? Capital Bikeshare has ebikes available all over the region. Here is some information on how to get started on an ebike and how to safely ebike in a city

You know what else is fun? Bike tricks! Here is a two-part lesson (part 1, part 2) from our in-house expert on how to do a wheelie!

Did you know that WABA has youth education options to get the kiddos in your life riding? Sign up for Bike to Anywhere Week and join WABA today and help our programs reach further. 

Biking to Learn

Hopping on your bike to learn something could come in many forms: biking to school, to a museum, to read a book, or to finally reading all the historical markers in your neighborhood. Or maybe you’re biking to learn how to ride confidently, to help a friend learn, or staying home to learn more online—you choose in which ways you can learn! 

At WABA, we believe that it is important to learn about how the built environment—our streets, neighborhoods, and cities—around us benefits some communities over others. Communities of color suffer disproportionate burdens from inadequate transportation infrastructure and the direct effects of climate change. Visit waba.org/antiracism to find resources on how to promote justice with the changes to the transportation system that we seek to create. Or, if you want to learn a technical skill, did you know that our biking classes are free for all members? You can find more information on our Member Extras here, and when you’re ready, sign up for your Bike Anywhere Week membership!

Bike Tune-Up Tips

Dust off your bikes and let’s get rolling! Keeping your bike tuned-up and safe to ride isn’t difficult, but if you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help! 

For general biking resources, head on over to waba.og/tips. To get yourself ready to ride and your bike in tip top shape, I recommend  How to Fit a Bike, and How to Fit a Helmet. Here is a page of biking resources for new riders!

If you’re not a bike owner—and you don’t need to be one to participate in Bike Anywhere Week!—Capital Bikeshare is a great, affordable option. Check out some videos we made with them to learn how the system works.

Have you heard about the ABC quick check? It is an easy-to-remember, fast way to make sure your bike is ready to go every time you ride. It helps you identify upfront things that could be inconvenient problems if they crop up while you’re riding. Good news— we have a video to teach you how to do an ABC quick check!

Did you know that every WABA membership comes with a coupon for $15 off a bike tune-up at our participating bike shops? You can find more information on our Member Extras here, and when you’re ready, sign up for your Bike Anywhere Week membership!

Equitable Investment in Montgomery County’s Bike Network

Over the past few years, Montgomery County’s elected leaders and residents have raised important questions about how the County’s substantial transportation budget is helping build a more equitable transportation network. Drawing on the County’s Bicycle Master Plan and Equity Focus Areas, WABA authored a new report: Equitable Investment in Montgomery County’s Bicycle Network.

Montgomery County should allocate $110 million in the FY23-28 CIP budget to build out all of the Tier One Bicycle Master Plan projects in four of the County’s Equity Focus Areas, resulting in safe bikeable/walkable networks within denser neighborhoods. By allocating funding to these projects, Montgomery County will make significant strides towards implementation of the County’s Bicycle Master Plan and will make biking, walking, and access to transit much safer in four of the County’s Equity Focus Areas in Wheaton, White Oak, Langley Park and downtown Silver Spring.

Read The Report

Learn More About the Proposal

Learn all about WABA’s groundbreaking proposal to build bikeable/walkable networks in Wheaton, White Oak, Langley Park and downtown Silver Spring. On February 1, 2022, Peter Gray gave a presentation about the proposal and discussed next steps and strategies to get the County Council to adopt and fund this initiative.