The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Public Spaces

Have an empty street tree box? Ask for a new tree now

District residents have until June 15th to suggest locations that need trees for the upcoming 2012-2013 street tree planting season.

Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration (UFA) designates June 15th of each year as the final day for resident feedback on where to place trees during the roughly October through April annual planting season.

UFA's job revolves around the trees in tree boxes along city streets. The District currently boasts 130,000 street trees, which fill over 90% of the available tree locations filled.

With unlimited funding UFA could plant a tree in every empty tree box this season, but budget constraints require arborists to choose which spots to fill. They prioritize areas where residents have requested trees, and use any remaining funding to add trees in areas with more available locations and less existing tree cover.

A team of 12 arborists, including Supervisory Forester Earl Eutsler, monitors the approximately 145,000 available open spots for trees. The available space fluctuates for many reasons. For example, redesigned sidewalks or roads can eliminate tree boxes, or a large tree imposing on power lines may be removed and replaced with a number of smaller trees.

Eutsler encourages residents to use online service requests to provide information and feedback to the arborists. Alternatively, residents can request plantings by calling 311 or using the SeeClickFix mobile application. UFA staff are also available at 202-671-5133 to speak with residents about tree concerns.

Eutsler says:

Ideally, each customer would go through, where they can enter the comments for themselves, as opposed to relaying a message to a call taker where an abridgement may occasionally occur. Also, people who start with will enjoy a virtual file cabinet of every request they have put in, for reference. So customers should start with 311 and be as specific as possible. If they would like to move from the formal request into an actual dialogue with one of our arborists they should leave their email address in the contact information window and add a comment requesting a follow up message from the inspecting arborist.

Of course, our findings are entered into each service request, so the customer could also log back in to see our findings. Please convey that every official service request is reviewed by this office. Our arborists take each request with them into the field (virtually), and update the service request while on site at the tree in question. At the end of each day, our inspection results are pushed back into the main request system where they may be reviewed by the customer.

Residents can also track plans to plant and remove trees through a set of Google Documents spreadsheets. An ArcGIS map shows the locations of existing trees. UFA is moving toward only using ArcGIS to track the tree inventory, planting, and removal in the future.

An open data set of street trees lists the location, tree species, size, condition, and date of last inspection. By plotting the DC GIS data, residents can even analyze the ratio of open to planted spaces in their neighborhoods.

The arborists are limited in the amount of time they can spend caring for every street tree. Residents can adopt and care for newly planted trees through DDOT's Canopy Keeper program.

The non-profit company Casey Trees recently released a comprehensive online reference page about the District's street trees. There are other Casey Trees programs that complement UFA's efforts, such as a tree purchase rebate program for trees on private property.

Residents periodically notice newly planted trees that are not thriving because they haven't gotten enough water or care. UFA tries to avoid these problems by requiring its planting contractors to guarantee the tree for one year, and sets a demanding standard for what constitutes a properly established tree.

If you see newly planted or established trees that need trimming, maintenance, or removal, enter a service request to notify the UFA. Likewise, if you have an empty tree space near your home, enter a service request before June 15th for UFA to plant a new tree during the next planting season.

Mitch Wander first arrived in Washington, DC over 25 years ago as a US House of Representatives page while in high school. An avid promoter of DC living, Mitch has lived in wards 1, 2, 3, and 6. He and his wife are proud DC Public School parents. He serves as an officer in the US Army Reserve. 


Add a comment »

Maybe I'm an idiot, but I can't figure out how to make a request through the website. If you go to "Tree Services" on the 311 page, there doesn't seem to be an active request link for a planting request. I guess I'll do the method they prefer people *not* do and call...

by Jon M. on Apr 25, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

I had the same issue - can't find where to request on the website. All i can find is:
"Residents may request a tree for an existing, empty tree box or continuous planting strip (grass strip) in front of their residence or trees for an entire block by calling 311. All planting requests must be submitted before June 15th to be processed for the upcoming fall/winter planting season."

by TJS on Apr 25, 2012 11:38 pm • linkreport

@ Jon M. & TJS

I see what you're saying. If you go to the explanation of the tree services, the links can become circular.

Here's how to submit a tree planting request using the web application. From scroll down to and click on "Submit a New Service Request" (below the green plus sign). Select "Tree Planting," Tree Pruning" or "Tree Removal" as applicable and press "Go." Fill in the pages with the details of your request including location and your contact information. Your email address is necessary if you want to be able to check the status of your request online. Otherwise, you would want to jot down the service request number and then you can call 311 for status.

Alternatively, you can "Register" on this page before entering your service request. If you do create an account, you can then logon and view the status of all of your requests after logging on to your account.

by Mitch Wander on Apr 26, 2012 12:07 am • linkreport

I keep getting this message when I try to register.

311 Online.

Page not found
The requested page could not be found.

by Tom A. on Apr 26, 2012 9:47 am • linkreport

It looks like the 311 site was temporarily down for at least a few minutes. Too much traffic? Another DDOS hack like a few days ago?

by Oliver on Apr 26, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

@ Tom A. & Oliver,

I'm on the public email distro for DC OCTO GIS. There was an outage from yesterday evening until this afternoon. It has been resolved. You can give it another try.

by Mitch Wander on Apr 26, 2012 6:17 pm • linkreport

Thanks Mitch, I was able to submit a request using your instructions.

by TJS on Apr 26, 2012 10:27 pm • linkreport


It appears the issues with have been resolved, and your how-to clearly outlines the process for placing a request online, so thank you for that. Clearly the message is getting out because since your piece was published our volume of tree planting service requests has increased dramatically. Of all the tree planting requests initiated since the start of 2012, 15% have come in over the past 2 days!

So thanks again,

Earl Eutsler
DDOT - Urban Forestry

by Earl Eutsler on Apr 27, 2012 8:12 am • linkreport

WASN'T THE 311 WEBSITE ONLY put online a couple of weeks ago? It says I have an account already, and when I ask for a temporary password, it doesn't work. I never set up an account, unless it is something I did on in a previous year, and it moved over when online 311 started.

But I requested a tree without logging in.

by Tom A. on Apr 27, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

@Earl - Kudos to you and the UFA team. Glad that there were lots of requests after our GGW article.

@Tom A. - Great to hear that you requested a tree. No logon required. You can always track your request using the request number and your email, even without registering. I think you're referring to the recent re-launch of the 311 mobile app. DC's online Service Request Center, renamed, has been around for over 10 years. Even if you haven't used it before, DC was using single sign-on for DC.Gov newsletters and that's why 311 might think that you have already registered. If you received newsletters previously, your email is in there. If you're having trouble with the password reset, try emailing for assistance.

by Mitch Wander on Apr 27, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

Thanks for this post - we're moving in June and I went ahead and requested a few trees in the empty tree boxes outside our new home.

Earl - not sure if you remember me from JHU but glad to see you're putting our Environmental Policymaking class to good use.

by Ed Garnett on Apr 27, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us