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TreeKeepers program grows with Tuscany-Canterbury tree survey

Picking up where their TreeKeepers classes left off, residents of Tuscany-Canterbury have begun a survey of the estimated 200 "street" trees in the leafy neighborhood.

"We want to be the first neighborhood (in the city) to do a complete, thorough census," said Fred Chalfant, past president of the Tuscany-Canterbury Neighborhood.

Chalfant, a digital technician who assists photographers and videographers, was among eight residents who met at One World Cafe at West University Parkway and Canterbury Road on Aug. 2 to plan for the survey.

Armed with a survey checklist and a map of the neighborhood, they strategized over coffee and bagels for an hour, and then ventured across Canterbury Road to survey several trees there, including a scarlet oak, to get the hang of how to do the survey.

"Let's do a few trees, so people can see," said Roger Horn, informal leader of the group.

After notating characteristics including the height, location, species, condition and width of the trees, as well as whether there were utility wires near the trees and whether the trees looked diseased, the group dispersed, and agreed to split into separate groups, each responsible for different streets.

"We're going to do it block by block," Chalfant said.

The residents have all completed basic tree stewardship classes in a new program called Baltimore TreeKeepers, co-sponsored by the nonprofit Baltimore Tree Trust, Tree Baltimore and the Baltimore City forestry board, in an effort to achieve Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's stated goal of increasing the city's urban tree canopy from 27 to 40 percent by the year 2040, and to plant tree in neighborhoods with low tree counts.

Although similar classes are taught in many U.S. cities, the collaborative effort by the city and tree groups is the first of its kind in Baltimore, according to Amanda Cunningham, executive director of the Baltimore Tree Trust.

The goal is "to get more trees in the ground, protect the ones we have and educate the public," Cunningham said in February before the start of classes including "101: Trees & Baltimore," and "102: The Science of Trees."

"TreeKeepers is important because we want buy-in" from the public," Erik Dihle, city arborist and chief of urban forestry, said at the time. "We want the citizens of Baltimore to take ownership of the beautiful heritage we have."

In Tuscany-Canterbury, protecting existing trees and planting new ones is seen as especially important, because most of the trees are 80-100 years old and are reaching the end of their life spans.

"No matter what we do, for awhile, we're going to go from a vertical to a horizontal neighborhood," predicted Horn, retired English professor at the College of Southern Maryland, in LaPlata.

Horn said such surveys are also important to city officials.

"The city very badly wants a citywide survey," but so far has been limited in what it can do by a lack of funding, Horn said.

Tuscany-Canterbury is not the only community doing tree surveys. Others that had residents in the TreeKeepers program included Butchers Hill, Fells Point and Upper Fells Point, Cunningham said last week.

Tuscany-Canterbury residents cite Roland Park and Mount Vernon as other communities doing surveys, though not through TreeKeepers.

But Chalfant said Tuscany-Canterbury residents would like their tree census to be a model for other neighborhoods to follow, especially in north Baltimore, which has the city's largest tree canopy.

"We (north Baltimore) probably have the highest percentage" of trees," Chalfant said. As residents of an upscale neighborhood, "We want to do our part," he said. "I think many of us feel we're not just volunteers."

Others at the organizational meeting at One World Cafe included, Jane Pilliod, a retired Maryland assistant attorney general and the wife of neighborhood association president A.J. O'Brien. Pilliod, 67, was one of 100 people who signed up for the first TreeKeepers 101 class, at Cylburn Arboretum.

"I would like to do something civic and I like trees," Pilliod, a master gardener, said in February. Last fall, she participated in Roland Park's tree survey.

Cunningham said the TreeKeepers classes have continued to draw interest, with 70 taking the "102" class in March and 38 people taking an advanced class in tree planting for certification.

"They're excellent numbers. We're very pleased," she said.

The Baltimore Tree Trust plans to offer another "101" class Sept. 14, and a "102"class Sept. 26. Those classes will be held at the Patterson Park public charter school, she said. No date is set yet for the next tree planting class.

The trust hard also encouraged people to help plant trees in McElderry Park, in east Baltimore, where 53 trees were recently planted in three days, she said.

Cunningham also plans to bring the TreeKeepers program to communities citywide this fall and next spring.

"We're going to take it on the road and take it into neighborhoods that are not up to speed on environmental literacy," she said.

And, in the winter, there will be a tree pricing certification class, "which is a little more involved," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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