Eight aging trees to be removed from Catonsville church property

If you see trees being cut down along Melvin Avenue at Frederick Road this week, don't be alarmed.

The aging trees are being replaced by young healthy trees as part of a beautification project initiated by the Catonsville United Methodist Church.

Baltimore County will cut down eight old trees planted on the east and west sides of Melvin Avenue in front of the church on March 19, said Catonsville United Methodist Church facilities manager Ken Erickson.

"It was only a matter of time before they were aging out. They were reaching the end of their expected life," Erickson said.

"And so we made the decision jointly that it would be a wise decision to dig out the old ones and replace them with young and healthy stock that should replace the tree landscaping for the next 30 to 50 years," Erickson said.

The trees will be replaced by 11 new 3- to 4-year-old trees donated by the Catonsville Tree Canopy Project, a nonprofit with the goal of planting 1,000 big trees along the streets of Catonsville by 2020.

The group will dig holes for the trees and Boy Scouts from Troop 307 and volunteers from the church will plant the new trees, Erickson said.

"All of the trees are at the end of their normal average lifecycle. ... If you went in and replaced those trees one by one, you'd end up with different size trees and you'd lose the landscape effect," said Jim Himel, a spokesman for the Catonsville Tree Canopy Project, who is also a licensed forester.

Four trees on the east side of Melvin Avenue will be replaced by zelcova, a type of Japanese shade tree that grows 50 to 80 feet in height and has a spread of 50 to 75 feet, according to Arborday.org.

Four trees on the west side of the street will likely be replaced by crape myrtle, a fast-growing shrub that produces pink flowers.

"For one or two years, we'll suffer with less canopy," Erickson said. "But in the next 50 years, we'll be increasing the canopy tremendously by planting those trees."

First District Councilman Tom Quirk said he supports the project.

"I think this tree initiative they're doing is going to look wonderful. I really appreciate their efforts and look forward to seeing this come to fruition," Quirk said.

Replacement of aging trees along Melvin Avenue won't be the only change happening around the church.

A landscaping project on the church's property designed by architect Mary Weiss, a member of the church, will alter its landscaping.

The project involves constructing a memorial garden with a circular stone seating area and a fire pit in the center.

There is to be a stone pathway that connects the memorial garden to the concrete walkway that leads to the church's entrance.

Aging trees on the church's property will also be cut down and replaced by new, healthier trees.

Weiss said the memorial garden will add an outdoor gathering space to the church.

"I just think all those building users will probably use this space, and we're trying to make it as vandal-proof and maintenance-free as we can so that it will be something that will last a long time," Weiss said.

The project will be done in phases beginning in May and will cost about $6,000, Weiss said.

It will have stone boulder benches in a 12-foot radius that will seat 12 to 16 people comfortably, Weiss said.

The first phase will begin with the installment of a crushed stone walkway and stone benches.

The second will involve planting and landscaping.

The final phase, scheduled to begin next Fall will complete the project with the installment of a wooden fence.

Weiss said she chose crushed stone for the walkway because she wanted a, "soft, permeable surface so you really feel like you're transitioning from a hard public realm into a more personal, meditative space."

"The crushed stone is a very easy material for the Boy Scouts to work with. We had to consider who was installing it, what their skill level was, what the budget constraints might be," Weiss said. "It's a user-friendly material."

Two Boy Scout troops will assist the church with the new memorial garden.

"We're really building upon the beautiful garden already created adjacent to the [Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce]...We're building on the enhancements that have begun in the corner of that lot," Weiss said, referring to a garden located on the church's property that is maintained by the Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a very public corner and I think any enhancement of green space along Frederick Road benefits the whole community," Weiss said.

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