May 21, 2019

Pax & Forrest Center Plant Rotary Trees

The Lexington Park ArtsPark received 20 cherry tree saplings this spring, launching a community effort to restore and replace the scores of spring blooming cherry trees filling the roads of the former Lexington Manor neighborhood across Route 235 from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Pax River conservation and environmental personnel took responsibility for the donation of the 20 saplings provided by Lexington Park Rotary. Coordinating with John Spinicchia, the natural resources management teacher at the James Forrest Career and Technology Center, students planted the trees the week before soaking rains gave them a good start.

St. Mary’s County Community Development Corp. held the second annual Cherry Blossom Festival on the property April 8, 2018, drawing more than 2,000 visitors to the ArtsPark at the height of the blooms. Nearly 50 vendors and more than a dozen participatory art activities and live music and dance performances filled the afternoon. Next year’s festival is scheduled for April 7,  2019 — again hopeful to catch the fleeting blossoms.

The line of saplings planted this month down Coral Place begin across the street from Three Notch Theatre, home of the The Newtowne Players. They stretch past the first intersections of the nested, horseshoe shaped roads, Salamaua and Lei. Only a trio of the saplings were planted on the east side at Three Oaks Center at the corner of Coral and Lei Drive.

Planting the trees at Coral and Lei, Braden Yakel and Josh Carter, students in the Natural Resources Management Program, discovered hunks of coal. The original homes burned coal for heat, explained their teacher Mr. Spinicchia. The houses were built by the Navy in the early 1940s for the civilians needed to build the new Navy base across the street.

The planned community was noteworthy. Along with coal bins, the duplexes and triplexes were built to capture natural light and breezes. Air conditioning and fuel oil replaced those needs by the time the Navy sold the 342 homes to a property firm in the 1960s. The new owners planted  hundreds of cherry trees along the roads, named for Pacific battles. The community itself, opening in 1942, was named for the Lexington which had gone down in battle in the Coral Sea.

The trees planted in the 1960s are the same species that bloom to such annual acclaim at the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. The Rotary Club consulted with arborists and selected two species to plant, best suited for Southern Maryland climate and for the health that comes with a variety of species.

The new trees are needed. Those still alive from the 1960s are old. Very old for cherry trees, according to arborist Carl Dyson, who has estimated as many as 150 could be returned to health. But others, he said, will need to be replaced.

St. Mary’s County Community Development Corp. is working with St. Mary’s County, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and with the support of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital East Run Center and other community sponsors to open the area up to passive use to included a lighted bicycle and pedestrian path from Willows Road to Lei Drive.

A tree adoption program will be established to develop an ongoing fundraising program to support the immediate and future needs of the cherry trees and the ArtsPark


For more about Lexington Park, visit the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation’s Leader member page.


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