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Cherry blossoms in DC hit peak bloom as dark cloud of removal looms

The National Park Service announced plans to begin a seawall project that will require the removal of 140 cherry trees.
Cherry blossoms in DC hit peak bloom as dark cloud of removal looms
Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 18, 2024

The cherry blossoms lining the National Mall in Washington hit “peak bloom” on Sunday, bringing forth a bright and early display of spring, the National Park Service announced

It’s the second-earliest time the famous trees have ever reached their peak blossom, the agency said. 

Visitors far and wide will flock to the nation’s capital to take in the ethereal pink and white blooms that create an illusion of fluffy clouds around the Tidal Basin. But a dark cloud looms over the celebration this year. 

The National Park Service announced plans last week to begin a three-year restoration project of the seawalls around the Tidal Basin and Potomac River. Preparations for the reconstruction will involve removing around 140 of the beloved Japanese cherry trees between the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. 

There are approximately 3,800 cherry trees within the park, growing from the original 3,020 gifted from Japan. 

“Tree locations and topography were considered in the construction planning, and every effort was made to minimize the number of trees that must be removed,” the National Park Service said. 

In all, 300 trees in the rehabilitation zone will be removed. However, during the completion of the project, 455 trees, including 274 cherry trees, will be replanted in the area, the agency said. 

The first phase of the $113 million project will start in late spring or early summer. This year’s cherry blossom festival will not be affected by the plans. 

Among the trees being removed for the necessary seawall repairs is a local Washington legend: Stumpy. 

The small but mighty cherry tree, pictured below, became a viral sensation over the years, accumulating an online following that resulted in fan-made merchandise

Stumpy served as a symbol of resilience, blooming and growing despite facing challenges and shortcomings. But even a "short king" must one day meet its demise. 

The National Park Service said the repair of the Tidal Basin and West Potomac Park seawalls is part of nearly $500 million in planned infrastructure improvements at the National Mall before the 250th anniversary of American independence in 2026. The seawall project is expected to be completed in 2027, however. 

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