Paul Josey, chair of the City of Charlottesville Tree Commission, and Charlottesville planning commissioner Jody Lahendro helped plant swamp white oak trees on Monticello Ave. last year. Credit: Credit: Bill Emory

The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards will plant dozens of trees on a Monticello Avenue median this month, forming a new link between Charlottesville and the historic home of Thomas Jefferson.

To complete the Monticello Gateway planting project, the Tree Stewards will receive assistance from Virginia National Guard soldiers and volunteers from the Journey Through Hallowed Ground, a nonprofit, four-state partnership dedicated to raising awareness of historic sites between Charlottesville and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

“It will be an artistic and natural contribution to the city,” said Dorothy Smith, the Tree Stewards’ representative on the city’s Tree Commission. “In a couple of decades, the trees will be a spectacular way of acknowledging that you are now in Charlottesville.”

The project required the coordination of local and state governments and contributions from businesses and nonprofits.

“It’s a strain for everyone to express their own needs and rules, but everyone has bent over backwards to make this happen,” Smith said.

The Tree Stewards’ work on the Monticello Gateway was recognized by the International Society of Arboriculture last month with a Gold Leaf Award for outstanding landscaping beautification activities.

The inspiration for the Monticello Gateway came from the Tree Commission, which has recommended the planting of more trees along the city’s entrance corridors.

“We thought that the trees would be a nice connection between Monticello and the city,” said Chris Gensic, a tree commissioner and the city’s parks and trails coordinator.

The Monticello Gateway median extends from Quarry Road to the Thomas Jefferson Parkway — well beyond the reach of the city’s landscaping services. Monticello groundskeepers will water the trees every three weeks, and the Tree Stewards will handle other maintenance tasks.

Albemarle County waived a $5,000 bond to give the Virginia Department of Transportation resources to remove the trees, should this be necessary in the future.

That enabled the Tree Stewards to plant 11 swamp white oaks on the median last year. A $9,800 grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry’s Trees for Clean Water program and a contribution from the Ballyshannon Fund helped pay for the 64 trees that will be planted this month.

Paul Josey, chairman of the Tree Commission and a landscape architect, made a site plan for the median that groups some of the trees into small “groves” for a more natural appearance. “It should be a great transformation of that stretch of Route 20,” Josey said.

After consulting experts at Monticello, Josey chose several tree species associated with Jefferson to be planted on the median. Eighteen Kentucky coffeetrees, a species introduced to Jefferson by Albemarle frontiersman George Rogers Clark, will be featured prominently on the Monticello Gateway. It also will include tulip poplars and Jefferson American elms.

Bremo Trees has donated 10 saplings for the project and will help volunteers remove soil from the trees’ roots to prepare them for planting. Windridge Landscaping and Hardscaping has drilled holes into the median for each new tree. “That median is hard and full of rocks,” Smith said. “Now we can really spend our time on planting, composting and mulching.”

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground plans to add more trees to the median next year after the Tree Stewards’ larger canopy trees take root. It will work with the Virginia National Guard to plant 20 redbud trees, each representing a specific Civil War soldier killed in battle. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground hopes to plant 620,000 of them throughout its four-state area for its Living Legacy project.

“We are glad to be a part of this partnership and to help support the project,” said Shuan Butcher, director of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway. “I give all the credit to Paul Josey and the Tree Stewards. They’ve done a fabulous job.”

“It’s a great way to tie in history and nature. Both are critically important,” Butcher said. “[Josey’s] plan is beautifully done. … Almost any time of year, the colors will be beautiful.”

The Tree Stewards are hosting work days to plant the Monticello Gateway trees Saturday.


Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.