2011 Stihl Tour des Trees Rolls Through Virginia's Capital
October 12, 2011
Volunteers pass out refreshments to Tour des Trees cyclists as they arrive at the Virginia Capitol in Richmond.
Joel Koci of Arborcare Professional Tree Service and the Rev. Bob Bluford explain the history of the planted white oak. Bluford collected acorns from the famed Lee Tree that grew more than 3,000 new white oaks.
Many people are familiar with the Tour de France, but few probably have heard of the Tour des Trees.
Tour des Trees is an annual long-distance cycling excursion that raises money for tree research and education. It started in 1992, so it's considerably younger than its more famous French counterpart, which began in 1903.
The Tour des Trees typically takes five to seven days and covers up to 500 miles. Cyclists stop to plant trees or participate in community outreach along the way. The event is sponsored by Stihl and is the main fundraiser for the nonprofit Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund, or TREE Fund.
This year's ride took place Oct. 2-8. Sixty-five cyclists pedaled from Virginia Beach to Washington, D.C., and the ride was aptly named the "VA2DC" tour. On Oct. 4, cyclists made their way through my hometown of Richmond, Va. As a tree lover and amateur cyclist, I couldn't pass up the invitation to see them in action. I arrived at the Capitol just as they were pulling in. The Richmond Tree Stewards were among the welcoming party that awaited them.
Many of the men and women I met had been participating in Tour des Trees for several years. Some made their livings as arborists. Others just had a love for trees.
"I'm pretty much committed to raising money for trees and to giving back to the industry," said Steve Geist, an arborist from Colorado. He's biked in the event for 14 years.
During their brief stop in Richmond, the cyclists planted a special white oak on Virginia's Capitol grounds. The tree is a descendant of the massive Lee Tree that once stood in Hanover County. According to legend, the tree provided a shady spot for Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee to confer with his officers during the 1862 Battle of Gaines Mill. The tree, thought to be more than 400 years old, fell during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Its acorns were harvested and planted to reproduce more than 3,000 legacy trees.
"It seemed to me a sad thing to just let the tree go out of existence," said the Rev. Bob Bluford Jr. Bluford collected the Lee Tree's acorns and attended the Tour des Trees planting.
The cyclists also planted trees in Williamsburg and at Monticello. This year, Tour des Trees has raised $425,621 for the TREE fund. To date, it has raised nearly $4 million.
To support Tour des Trees, click here.
Many thanks to arborist Joel Koci of Arborcare Professional Tree Service for inviting Plant More Plants to the event. Thanks also to Tour des Trees cyclist Al Gilens, who generously shared these great photos of the tree planting for our blog. Al's photos are copyrighted and cannot be used or reproduced without his permission.
Julie Buchanan is a public relations specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and manager of the Plant More Plants social sites. She lives in Richmond.
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