Mystery solved in case of felled trees at OMVHS
Note: The original story was updated to include information from Supv. Storck's office.
A neighborhood whodunit that began with a Nextdoor user’s July 8 post showing a dozen felled trees in front of the Original Mount Vernon High School (OMVHS) has been solved.
In the days following the incident, community members speculated whether the trees had been taken out by a storm or removed due to the upcoming Richmond Highway widening project or OMVHS renovation. One eyewitness reported seeing landscapers removing the trees, though the company couldn’t be identified.
One month later, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck’s office filed a report about the incident with the Fairfax County Police Department following a fruitless attempt to identify the agency that ordered the trees to be removed. A spokesperson from Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said at the time that the removals were not ordered by DPWES, the Virginia Department of Transportation or Dominion Energy.
A break in the case came last week when landscapers seen working on-site at OMVHS were asked about the incident. They reportedly confirmed that they had been involved with the tree removal, and their feedback was passed along to FCPD.
On Aug. 24, officer Katie Watts from FCPD’s Mount Vernon District Station told On the MoVe that the Fairfax County Stormwater Management Division had arranged and ordered the removal of the trees with the intent of replacing them. The reason provided for the removal, said Watts, was that the trees were encroaching on the overhead power lines and that routine trimming would have made them unsightly.
The decision to remove the trees was made following a site visit conducted with members and representatives of the county, including the Board of Supervisors, said Watts.
In response, Storck said he and his staff had no knowledge of the matter, were surprised at what they had learned and are following up with county leadership. They also are ensuring that trees get replanted at the site.
"When we finally get to the bottom of this, I will share that information with the community," he told On the MoVe.
One remaining holly tree will soon be removed from the OMVHS site, and replacement trees will be planted as they become available in upcoming weeks, according to Watts.
“This was determined to not be a criminal incident,” she said.