The Baltimore County Council plans to vote Monday on a bill that would give greater scrutiny to projects affecting wildlife at county parks, a move inspired by a controversial tree-painting project at Oregon Ridge Park.
Mary Jane Shanks of Monkton told members of the County Council during a public hearing that the intention of the Forest of Hope project was good, but its implementation was flawed. She said the nature council’s role is to help county staff protect the park’s integrity and educate the public about nature.
“The trees now stand for years as examples of what not to do,” she said.
Patricia Ghingher, a retired science teacher from Parkton, said the paint is likely to last for 20 years or more, inhibiting the bark’s ability to exchange gases between the trees and the atmosphere.
She questioned how the paint project was approved without public input. She said she hoped the bill being considered by the council “would hopefully give us some checks and balances so it would not happen again.”
Officials with the Nikki Perlow Foundation have said that they met with county officials multiple times to gain approval for the project. County officials have defended their handling of the matter.
The bill before the council would make a slight tweak to the law that allows the county parks and recreation director to approve activities in the parks. It would require the parks director to consult with the county director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability when approving a range of activities that would harm animals, plants or aquatic life on park property.
Councilman Wade Kach, a Republican whose district includes Oregon Ridge Park, said requiring the parks director to consult with the environmental director should avoid future problems.
“It sets up a system of checks and balances,” Kach said. “Therefore, if someone else wants to do something in our parks, this is going to go through our environmental agency as well, which is very important.”
After trees were painted in Oregon Ridge Park in the fall, the commission submitted a statement to the Baltimore County Council in May to push for change in how some parks projects are reviewed and approved.
“I think we do need to sometimes ask others for input before we would do something so permanent,” Bevins said.
Marks said he appreciated the input from the environmental commission on the issues. “As a council, I think we should be listening to our advisory commissions,” he said.
The sponsors would need to pick up one more vote for the bill to pass the seven-member council when it votes Monday, but it may not come from Council Chairman Julian Jones, who expressed skepticism during a hearing last week.
Jones, a Woodstock Democrat, questioned if it was necessary to pass a new law because of a disagreement over one project in one park.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to legislate someone’s behavior,” Jones said.