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Green Towson Alliance spent 2020 living up to its name

Green Towson Alliance volunteers pause during a fall tree-planting project in Towson.
Green Towson Alliance volunteers pause during a fall tree-planting project in Towson. (J. Brough Schamp)

In a stressful world, peaceful time in the great outdoors can soothe the soul. I’m thankful for the efforts of Green Towson Alliance for its vigilance in keeping our community’s green spaces healthy and beautiful. Undeterred by the pandemic, GTA members have continued activities that can be done safely, including planting trees, cleaning streams and advocating for good environmental policies in Towson and Baltimore County.

Pat Mochel of GTA shared a recap of some of the organization’s many deeds in 2020. “We had to plan carefully for socially distanced ways to work with our volunteers to clean streams or plant canopy trees in our neighborhoods,” Mochel said. “We found plenty of things we could do either alone or in small groups.”

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Early in the year, GTA members completed the project of pruning trees in the median strip of Loch Raven Boulevard, enhancing this entrance to the Towson area from Baltimore City. In the springtime, they potted many dozens of plants for contactless transfer, and residents from 14 Towson-area neighborhoods took home native perennials to provide food, nectar and shelter to many species of bees, butterflies and birds.

They also launched a new “Chalk1Up” initiative, in which members used chalk to label native trees on nearby sidewalks, to educate the public about the importance of native plants to our ecosystems. In June, GTA held a Zoom discussion of Doug Tallamy’s book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard,” and created a Homegrown National Park work group.

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Throughout 2020, Radebaugh Park was a gift for neighbors to enjoy outdoor solace in the spring, summer and early fall. The park closed last month for construction of Phase 2 amenities (including paths and benches), and springtime will bring the planting of 93 native canopy trees in the space.

In July, GTA became aware that thousands of bits of plastic foam were floating through the air in our community (it looked like snow, but was definitely NOT!) due to new construction in downtown Towson. These bits were ending up on sidewalks, yards, gardens and on the stream bank of the Towson Run, which flows to the Chesapeake Bay. GTA investigated and found that these foam “fines” are created during the installation process of Exterior Finishing Insulation Systems (EFIS), and that proper containment methods were not being used by the contractor. They formed a group to work with the county to ensure this pollution does not happen again.

In September and October, GTA and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay organized cleanups of 10 sections of our local streams. Volunteers followed COVID-19 precautions while cleaning out trash from the Herring Run, the Jones Falls and their tributaries.

In October, GTA helped advise Will Morales of Troop 102 in his Boy Scout Eagle project to pull the invasive nandina at the County Office Building on West Chesapeake Avenue, and replace them with native rhododendrons, oakleaf hydrangeas, and ninebarks.

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In November and early December, GTA leadership and Blue Water Baltimore joined forces to plant more than 150 native canopy trees in Towson-area neighborhoods from Anneslie to Lutherville. Recruiting the sites for the new trees began last spring and has already resumed for 2021. Nearly 50 more trees were planted through GTA’s connections with Baltimore County’s Backyard Trees program, and 40-plus more will be planted by the county in coming months.

GTA continues to work tirelessly to keep Towson green and to improve and preserve our local environment. To take part or learn more, go to www.greentowsonalliance.org.

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