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Environmental advocates made tree-mendous contributions to Towson communities this year

Shannon McDonald, of Knollwood, started participating in environmental organizations when she was in seventh grade (thanks to Earth Science class). She began planting trees with Blue Water Baltimore in 2014 and took part in cleanups when it was the Jones Falls Watershed Association.

McDonald’s commitment to the environment as a whole is remarkable, but what really motivates her is trees. “I have a deep-seated love of trees,” she says. “Seeing huge canopies both with leaves and without brings me peace. If we don’t keep planting trees, eventually those canopies will die out. I want every kid [city, county, country] to grow up feeling the protection of big trees.”

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I am thankful for McDonald and other local tree enthusiasts for their efforts in planting 342 trees in 10 Towson communities during six work sessions in November and December. This project began last summer, when Green Towson Alliance volunteers and Green Teams from neighborhood associations went door-to-door to tell people about the opportunity to purchase and have trees planted through Blue Water Baltimore. Homeowners were able to choose what sort of tree they wanted. The native varieties planted this fall include willow oaks, northern red oaks, swamp white oaks, tulip poplars, American elms, bald cypresses, London planetrees, American lindens, riverbirches, black gums, and serviceberries.

The hard-working crew from the Dec. 4 tree planting in Towson.
The hard-working crew from the Dec. 4 tree planting in Towson. (Councilman David Marks)

It’s a win-win situation. “Given the fact that a homeowner, business or community association is receiving quality native trees at a discounted rate, delivered and installed for them it’s kind of a no-brainer, once you realize that trees take a long time to grow to the size of the ones that are just now breaking down. For example, the sycamores planted in Stoneleigh that have 1½-foot to 2-foot diameters were planted 100-plus years ago,” says McDonald.

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Trees bring tranquillity to our neighborhoods and provide shelter for birds and wildlife. They are a step toward mitigating climate change, keeping neighborhoods cooler in summer months, absorbing carbon and removing pollutants, filtering water, and absorbing ultraviolet radiation. Plus their beauty improves property values and positively impacts the health and well-being of the humans around them.

Darin Crew from Blue Water notes that since 2012, the group’s tree planting program in the Greater Towson and Lutherville area has planted 774 trees in neighborhoods including: Anneslie, Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh, West Towson, Southland Hills, Lake Walker, Towson Manor Village, Knollwood, Woodbrook, Lutherville, Idlewylde, Kenilworth, Gaywood, Aigburth Manor, and Wiltondale.

McDonald calls on all of us to get involved and inspire young people to join in. “If the same kids who were raised singing ‘We Are the World’ and ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ participate and encourage their children/neighbors to make small environmental shifts, a large change will occur,” she says. “I encourage everyone reading this article to consistently try one change: remembering to use reusable shopping bags; picking up trash 15 minutes a week; removing ivy choking trees and shrubs; etc. These actions add up. Physical participation is so good for mental health, and if younger community members participate this will become a paradigm shift where they go and grow.”

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