Volunteers plant trees at Patapsco State Park land off of Foxhall Farm Road.
Volunteers plant trees at Patapsco State Park land off of Foxhall Farm Road. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Baltimore County is about to get a lot more green, thanks to the new PLANTapsco initiative from the Patapsco Heritage Greenway that seeks to plant 1,000 trees in the Patapsco Valley.

As an outgrowth of its environmental stewardship program, the nonprofit is seeking sponsors to help fund the plantings, which are meant to mitigate stormwater runoff, provide habitat for wildlife and create more native tree canopy.

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In the “last two floods, there has been major, major damage,” said Lindsey Baker, executive director of Patapsco Heritage Greenway.

An abundance of trees can help curb the impact of floodwaters and heavy rainfall by “capturing and storing rainfall in the canopy and releasing water into the atmosphere,” Hannah Zinnert, program manager for Patapsco Heritage, said in an emailed response.

Roots and leaf litter also promote the infiltration of rainwater, reducing runoff, while the trees buffer stream banks during heavy rainfall and help prevent erosion there, she said.

Focusing on planting in areas where the trees can have the most impact, Baker said plans for the first round of plantings are set for Nov. 23 on parkland along Foxhall Farm Road in Catonsville. Zinnert wrote that she expects to put 40 to 50 trees in the ground that day, “depending on resources and space.”

Citing a study by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland, Zinnert said the Foxhall Farm area is near the Patapsco River’s Soapstone Branch tributary, which faces notable flood risk and is targeted for improvements by DNR to increase water retention upstream.

Creating more tree canopy there complements the state agency’s efforts to promote “green infrastructure only,” with no manmade culverts or other measures, in the Avalon area of the Patapsco Valley State Park in Halethorpe, Zinnert said.

Historic flooding in May last year tore through numerous park trails, mostly on the Baltimore County side, and kept many of them inaccessible well into February this year.

The greenway organization has planted trees along Foxhall Farm Road before, but planting more can increase the “many benefits native trees provide,” including runoff mitigation.

The group elected to plant 1,000 trees to match the roughly 1,181 trees they’ve planted since 2000, Zinnert said.

With varying sponsorship levels ranging from $50 for one tree to $1,000 for 20 trees, Greenway volunteers will plant sycamores, river birches, red maples, swamp white oaks, and tulip poplars, all native tree species, Baker said. At its lowest level, the money only partially pays for the cost of the plantings, she said. Planting a single tree runs about $75, because the group plants trees at least 5 feet tall, and the costs of mulch, caging, stakes and volunteer time have to be factored in, according to Zinnert.

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway maintains its trees for three years and, as a result, boasts a 90% to 95% survival rate for the plantings, Zinnert said.

Those who sponsor a tree will be recognized in planting ceremonies once a season during the fall and spring and will be named on the organization’s website, Baker said.

Catonsville Middle School is being eyed as the second planting site in the spring, and Zinnert said teachers, students and their families will be invited to participate.The group hopes to expand its efforts to Howard County, Baker said.

Along with its environmental benefits, the program allows “the community to take part in contributing to their environment, and get a better understanding of trees overall,” Baker said.

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On Nov. 2, Patapsco Heritage Greenway will join the Catonsville Tree Canopy Project in planting that organization’s 1000th tree at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, an effort it has helped fund since the canopy project set out to plant 1,000 trees a decade ago.

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