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Former state legislator convinces Vienna to save some trees as new houses replace historic preschool

A former state legislator has convinced the Town of Vienna to save some trees by an iconic preschool that’s slated to become a new housing development.

A developer is turning Parkwood School into a housing subdivision called Parkwood Oaks that could have up to nine homes, according to engineering notes for the developer in a plan on file with the town.

The son of Parkwood School founder Clarene Vickery, Raymond “Ray” Vickery Jr. sent a letter to the town council on June 11 asking them to save several trees, including a large oak, on the edge of the property at 601 Marshall Road SW near the Ware Street SW intersection.

“We want to particularly save the big oak my dad planted about 60 years ago at the corner of Ware and Marshall,” Vickery told Tysons Reporter.

Clarene Vickery, 101, died in 2019 after founding Parkwood School in 1956 and spending most of her life as director of the preschool, which has served over 10,000 kids. She lived in the upstairs part of the home, which also served as part of the school with its lower half.

Vickery’s father, Raymond Ezekiel Vickery, was a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army and died in 1987 at age 77. The couple is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton said in an email that trees located next to an existing sidewalk needed to be removed because the town requires sidewalks to be upgraded to a new code when there’s a new home or development building.

But Vickery argued in his letter to the town that “slight deviations could be made to save the large oak and other trees that mean so much to the citizens of Vienna who live in the 601 Marshall Road vicinity.”

It worked: Vickery connected with the town, which agreed to save a few key trees there next to a sidewalk, including the oak his dad planted.

However, some trees will still have to be removed, said Scott Diffenderfer, an urban arborist for the town.

“On the other hand, the developer is saving a lot of trees, and there’s going to be trees planted as the development progresses,” Diffenderfer said.

A property sale closed last Monday (June 21), and buyer John Sekas of Sekas Homes Ltd. has agreed to erect a historical marker there, Vickery said.

Vickery has also offered to donate Japanese cherry trees to be planted along Ware Street in honor of his parents.

The preschool had multiple single-family dwellings for its campus, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it used virtual programming instead of in-person activities.

According to Vickery, Malisa Eaton, the school’s executive director, has taken over Parkwood School and is looking for new premises. She didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Vickery, who served in the Virginia General Assembly from 1974 to 1980, says he plans to go the town council’s July 12 meeting to address the town’s tree ordinance, highlighting how trees help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and protect the ozone. The latter benefit is particularly important to him as someone who has been affected by skin cancer.

“The ordinance, though, is written so that trees, even though they’ve been marked and identified, can — can be taken down and replaced with saplings that’ll have 20% cover in 20 years,” he said. “And my perspective is if you have coverage there of existing trees…you ought to save existing trees.”

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