US & World

Tree lovers fight to save cherry trees around Tidal Basin

National Mall and Memorial Parks Cherry Blossom Festival.
National Mall and Memorial Parks Cherry Blossom Festival.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Critics scorn environmentalists as “tree huggers.” But some of the original tree huggers were Washington ladies who endeavored to save the city’s beloved cherry trees.

This is the week Washingtonians celebrate the blossoming of more than 3,000 cherry trees around the Jefferson Memorial.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved construction of the monument in 1938, he also authorized the National Park Service to uproot dozens of cherry trees. The agency’s Bill Lines says that’s when the mayhem started.

"There was a group of women," he says, "including one of the prominent newspaper editors here in Washington, D.C. of the now-defunct Washington Times Herald, led protests in the area where the Jefferson Memorial sits now, saying ‘We’re not going to let these cherry trees be cut down.’"

The women chained themselves together near the trees.

Eventually they worked out a compromise and persuaded the federal government to plant new trees.
Today, Washington boasts twice the number of cherry trees it had back in ’38.

And the Jefferson Memorial is one of the best viewing spots from which to see them blossom.

By the way, L.A. has its own cherry blossom festival. It's next weekend in Little Tokyo.