Volunteers have it made in the shade
This spring, “cool Baltimore neighborhoods” takes on a new meaning. In early April, volunteers of all ages joined the Baltimore Tree Trust to plant trees in selected areas of Baltimore City. Several more planting events are scheduled for May.
The 20 neighborhoods in East Baltimore that make up the Harris Creek Watershed contain a number of the city’s “urban heat islands.”
These are areas where roughly 90 percent of the land is covered by impervious surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete. As a result, the air there often reaches temperatures up to 16 degrees hotter than leafier neighborhoods on a given summer day.
Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, the Baltimore Tree Trust will be planting more than 700 trees to mitigate the effects of summertime heat in these neighborhoods.
Called “Trees for Public Health: Harris Creek Watershed,” the program is a multi-phase effort to expand the urban tree canopy and remove impervious surfaces in Baltimore.
The work will focus on the continued installation of trees along streets in neighborhoods identified as concrete-laden, with critically low tree coverage.
The Baltimore Tree Trust identifies critical areas by mapping the tree canopy and also going door-to-door to talk to community members about their neighborhoods.
By knocking on doors, trust staff can enlist older adults to attend the planting events or choose planting sites, according to the trust’s program director, Sheila McMenamin. “Trees for Public Health is an age-inclusive program that engages entire neighborhoods,” she said.
Fort Worthington Elementary and Middle School was one of the locations in Baltimore City that received trees last year.
Shortly after the new school building opened, Lexi Wung, English teacher and sustainability coordinator, urged the school to adopt a plot of land to set up a community garden where trees could be planted.
Wung and the Green Team researched and identified a nearby parcel that would be a perfect project for students, and many others in the school got involved.
Students submitted proposals; science and math teachers were on board to design lesson plans; the group decided on what to plant; and some students even created logos for the new community garden.
The community garden aims to create a healthy living area for the neighborhood and also offers a tangible way to educate students and residents on the importance of healthy lifestyles.
Wung recalled a Baltimore Sun article that claimed Baltimore City has one of the lowest life expectancies in the region. “The emphasis on living healthy in general has the largest impact on students’ day-to-day life — what you’re eating and what you’re putting into the community. They’re excited to eat healthy and positively impact life expectancy,” Wung said.
“I’m always trying to connect them to their community and the environment around them,” she added.
The Baltimore Tree Trust’s first volunteer planting of the spring took place on Saturday, April 6. More tree planting events are scheduled in the Patterson Park, Broadway East, Canton and Highlandtown neighborhoods on April 27, May 4, May 11 and May 18.
For more information or to volunteer to help, call (443) 873-3611 or visit baltimoretreetrust.org.