Dozens of people shoveled heaps of soil atop the bases of the freshly planted flowering cherry trees Saturday morning at a median along Edmondson Avenue in Catonsville. The sound of metal shovels clanking against rock pierced the crisp autumn air.
A teen carried a mound of mulch in a red wheelbarrel to another part of the median. A middle-aged man carried assorted seedlings in the opposite direction. Various groups of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other students completing service hours worked feverishly to replace more trees and vegetation damaged and destroyed in a slew of vandalism incidents this summer.
“It’s a wonderful feeling when you get a lot of focused people together you can get a lot done. That’s what community does,” said David Stanton, who has lived in Catonsville for the past 26 years. “This is our effort.”
About half of the 32 Kwanzan cherry trees planted by the nonprofit Catonsville Tree Canopy Project were destroyed in July. Baltimore County police have no suspects in what they believe was a deliberate act.
Catonsville Tree Canopy Project volunteers plan to plant and maintain 1,000 trees in the Catonsville community by 2020. The group has planted more than 800 trees, according to the organization’s leader, Jim Himel.
“I don’t have a good answer,” Stanton said in reference to thwarting future attacks. “All it takes is for one person with a bad attitude and a plan in the middle of the night. There’s not a lot you can do about that.”
Eric Ebersole, a state delegate who represents southwest Baltimore, lives around the corner from the planted trees.
“It’s heartening to know that so many people want to do something to make this a better place,” he said. “This is a heavily traveled road. People will keep a weathered eye. It’s going to take citizens.”
The day’s efforts were made in part from money by Green Grants, a program funded by BGE that has provided $1.6 million to central Maryland environmental efforts the past four years, according to Aaron D. Koos, a spokesman for BGE. About $20,000 has gone toward the efforts in Catonsville over the past two years, Koos said.
Home Depot also donated 600 bags of mulch, according to Himel.
“Neighborhood is what this is all about,” said Himel, who has lived in Catonsville for the past 25 years. He spent most of the day transporting trees and seedlings. “The significance here is huge.”
Koos, who also lives in Catonsville, was assisting with his two sons, Nate, 9, and Ben, 16.
“I think it will help the environment,” Nate said as he took a break from shoveling dirt. “If someone [destroyed these plants] I would feel disappointed and annoyed. We spent a lot of time planting these trees.”
Koos said he was proud of his children and their “connectedness to the community.” He added: “They know they are having a long-lasting effect on the community.
“It’s just what we do,” Koos said. “This is the community in Catonsville.”
Hundreds of volunteers lined the area—a half-mile stretch from Winters Lane west to Midvale—which was closed to traffic. Volunteers came on foot carrying rakes and shovels. Some pushed wheelbarrels. Others wore gardening gloves.
“I think we’re good here,” said volunteer Chris Burk, as he pounded the newly laid soil and mulch with his feet. He later smoothed the dirt with the bottom of his shovel. “I was heart-broken when the trees were destroyed. This is all possible because of the effort by this community.”
Jackie Wallace and her daughter, Natalie, just finished planting a tree. They looked satisfied as they walked back home.
“We came out to help the community and show a little community spirit,” Wallace said. “I’m excited and happy to see so many people. We didn’t sign up. We just showed up. This is great.”
Sarah Angerer, leader of Girl Scout Junior Troop 1640 from Catonsville United Methodist Church, brought a half-dozen troop members to help. The girls chose to use the opportunity for their service project.
“I’m glad the ones who showed up, showed up,” she said.
Bernie Mosher, a Catonsville resident for the past 20 years, said her 11-year-old daughter, Tori, volunteered as part of the troop.
“It’s a feeling of working together to accomplish something,” Mosher said. “We talked about what happened. We talked about how important trees are. It’s a big deal.”