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Sterling Community Fights to Save Park View’s Beloved Willow Tree

Sterling+Community+Fights+to+Save+Park+Views+Beloved+Willow+Tree

Lauryn Helstrom, soon to be a Virginia Track and Field State Champion, as well as one of Park View High School’s most accomplished athletes, stepped into the Park View stadium for the first time in the fall of 2014. The first thing she noticed was the beautiful willow tree that lies on Park View’s grounds. Helstrom spent her next four years admiring the tree in all its glory during every track meet and practice that came her way.

 

Years later, in 2023, Junior and successful color guard captain Sonja LaRue looks to the tree as a good luck charm before each performance as Lauryn once did.

 

“The tree has become a part of my routine as I walk into every performance, and it just wouldn’t be the same without it,” expressed LaRue.

 

These are just a couple of the countless patriots who have a special place in their hearts for Park View’s willow tree. The tree is located next to the concession stand near the field, with waterfalling leaves that drape over the picnic tables used by many students.

 

“The tree has been a pivotal staple representing many years of students and weathers the years of change. I love that tree,” explained Amy Gazes, former Patriot, and a key figure in the Sterling community.

 

However, future generations may never be able to have these experiences, and past memories may be forgotten. The safety of willow trees comes into question as the new building plan for Park View is developed. Currently, the tree is not included in the upcoming plans, as the whole stadium and surrounding areas including the concessions are to be demolished.

 

Click the image above to see a GIF of all four building plans, the heart represents the willow tree.

 

“Right now we’re working with [the architects] to finalize the plans, how it’s gonna work out, how the land is going to be. There is a possibility [to incorporate the tree]. We’ll do what we can, but there’s no guarantee. It’s up in the air,” commented Jason Testerman, Park View’s Athletic director.

 

Many students, parents, and staff have countless memories regarding the tree, including sitting at the picnic tables under it, grilling some Park View concession staples, and younger children playing games and running around the tree at events. 

 

“I remember sitting under the tree as a teen myself. Now I love seeing my own kids enjoying the same tree 24 years later,” Gazes relayed.

 

Keeping the tree alive and in place may be difficult, as there are few construction options which could work to protect it. One option is to build around the tree. This can be done by the work of trained arborists who can mark to construction workers where the root zone of the tree is. Another option would be to move the tree, which again, can be performed by arborists. 

 

“[First you must] determine the appropriate size root ball needed to successfully transplant the tree and then use mechanical equipment such as a tree spade truck to cut the roots and lift the tree and the rootball up out of the ground and transport it to the new location and place it in the pre-dug planting hole. The tree spade is then moved away from the tree,” said Terry Martin, owner of Treemovers, LLC.

 

This process can be quite costly and many experts are unsure if it is worth it. To move a single small tree can range from $1,000-2,500. Moving Park View’s willow tree would be quite costly as it is a very large tree. The unknown age of this willow tree could also play a factor in deciding whether or not moving the tree is the right decision, with willow trees commonly living for only around 60-70 years.

 

“The downsides here are extreme cost coupled with the issue that larger trees are less likely to survive transplantation. Large trees are less likely to survive transplantation due to having already adapted to their environment,” explained Jacob Zielinski, Virginia Department of Forestry Community Forestry Specialist.

 

Despite the community’s urge to keep the tree, if the various options to keep the tree are unachievable, there are a few ways to hold the Park View willow’s legacy in the new building. One idea is to use the current willow tree’s seedlings to plant a new willow tree on the school grounds, and begin the growth of a new willow tree as with the brand new school. Some other options are to make a memorial for the tree, such as a bench made from the current trees’ wood, or painting a mural of the tree in, or outside, of the new building. 

 

“Just like the community came together to push for Loudoun County to prioritize Sterling by building a better Park View, I believe the community can come together again to tell the developers we value this unique piece of Park View’s history that means so much to the community,” emphasized Lauryn Helstrom. 

 

Some of these ideas were also brought up at the community meeting held on November 1st, 2023. At this meeting, options for the new building were discussed, with four models of the new layout of Park View. In all of these new models, the willow tree is not accounted for, but that doesn’t mean the community would allow the tree to go unnoticed. 

 

Gazes stood up at the meeting and asked the question: “What about the willow tree?”

 

A few people chimed in, adding emphasis on this question.

 

Architects working for GWWO spoke on how it would be quite difficult to save the tree, depending on which direction they chose to go in and what building plan they chose. The team also brought up that environment and underground changes around the tree can easily affect the health of it. 

 

“What we need to do is just recognize that this is a huge construction project and it is very difficult to save the trees sometimes. We do everything we can,” explained Kevin Lewis, Chief Operations Officer at Loudoun County Public Schools. 

 

Despite these plans, students and the community will continue to fight for this tree. Willow trees are famously known as symbols of rebirth, survival,  flexibility, and adaptability. As the school and community faces major change, the willow tree tree could be one of the only parts that will remain from the original campus and will be a token to the hardships, determination, and loss faced to better Sterling with the new school.

 

 “This is more than a tree. This tree represents the start of Park view. Generations of trials and tribulations have gone through the presence of this tree,” commented Anna Helstrom, a senior at Park View High School.

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Ava Bogar, Reporter
Ava Bogar is a 15-year-old journalist who focuses on writing and designing for Park View's Newspaper. She created The View's logo design for Instagram, Tik Tok (@pvhstheview), and the newspaper website. Bogar has also published over three articles on The View, where she talks about school sports and news. Bogar plans to study Art after graduating from high school.
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