By Mary Maushard
From Harlem Park to Highlandtown and beyond, Baltimore City is greener — and environmentally cleaner — thanks to Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration’s (MDOT MPA) Urban Forestry Partnership.
The partnership between the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) — on behalf of MDOT MPA — and the nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore (BWB) has its roots in clean water and clean air. Trees help manage stormwater by intercepting rainfall from paved surfaces, which stops polluted water from entering local waterways. Trees also absorb carbon dioxide to help clear the air.
MDOT MPA pays for the trees and solicits help in planting them. BWB recommends appropriate trees and sites based on communities’ interests and Port priorities. Dedicated to restoring Baltimore’s rivers, streams and harbor, the nonprofit also plants many of the trees, waters them during the first year, checks them quarterly and replants any lost trees each fall.
MDOT MPA receives environmental credit for the benefits the trees have on the quality of water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The tree canopies also promote energy savings by providing a cooling effect and help to create wildlife habitats.
“We are always looking for win-win opportunities, and everybody loves trees,” said Bill Richardson, General Manager of MDOT MPA’s office of Safety, Environment & Risk Management. “Planting trees helps the Port meet its permit requirements, but it’s also great for our neighbors.”
MDOT MPA spends $200,000 a year — about $400 per tree — on the forestry project, said James Jett, Lead Environmental Specialist for MES.
During the first two years, 216 volunteers planted 1,000 trees in Harlem Park and along Route 40 in West Baltimore, Cherry Hill, Clifton Park and Highlandtown.
The partnership also helped develop green jobs and support environmental education activities.
Year three kicks off in April with the planting of 320 trees along residential blocks in the Belair-Edison neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore. Other 2019 projects include the Mondawmin area near Frederick Douglass High School and communities adjacent to the Port, such as St. Helena, Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.
“We’re planning to design and plant along Broening Highway … to help reduce and trap truck emissions along the Port’s main traffic corridor,” said Darin Crew, BWB’s Senior Manager for Nursery and Forestry. “Conifers and evergreens tend to trap more particulate matter, but also density of plantings can help [emissions] removal.”