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Advocacy group aims to improve health of Roland Run in Lutherville

A new stream restoration group, Friends of Roland Run, formed by three Lutherville residents to improve the quality of the local tributary, held its first public meeting Tuesday evening.

About 40 people attended the gathering Tuesday evening at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lutherville to learn about the health of the stream, which flows from the Maryland State Fairgrounds south to the Jones Falls at Lake Roland, and which suffers from environmental problems such as runoff and pollution, the group’s founders and local environmentalists say.

Lutherville residents Allen Hicks, Ernie Shea and Jeff Dier, started meeting about a year ago to discuss ways to reduce runoff and pollution in Roland Run. The meeting on July 31, Hicks said was held to “alert people about the condition and start doing something about it.”

“They’re our neighbors, and they should know what’s going on” said Hicks, one of the three founders of Friends of Roland Run.

The meeting comes at the start of a major county stream restoration project near the Lutherville Light Rail station to prevent sediment from being washed into Roland Run when it rains, which began Aug. 1, said Eric Duce, of Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Like many streams in the Jones Falls watershed, Roland Run is polluted, a local environmental group says. Blue Water Baltimore, which monitors Roland Run monthly, gave it a failing grade on its 2017 report card, citing issues including high fecal bacteria levels.

Attendees listened to presenters from Blue Water Baltimore, the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, and the nonprofit Center for Watershed Protection.

Water quality scientist Barbara Johnson, of Blue Water Baltimore, briefed the community on the science of water monitoring – how scientists measure water quality, what concerns them, and why.

Roland Run, Johnson said, is concerning because of three measures: nitrogen, conductivity and bacteria. Nitrogen, a nutrient found in fertilizers, can threaten ecosystems by promoting growth of algae, which dies and eats up oxygen in a body of water, “choking the fish.” High conductivity can indicate too much salt in the water. And bacteria can indicate the presence of fecal waste from sources like agriculture or sewer overflows.

To address some of these issues, Duce, from the county environmental protection department, said the county is undertaking the project to prevent sediment from washing into Roland Run. The project will restructure the stream so that it can better handle rain events without soil caving into the water. It is due to be completed in February.

But though county construction crews are rolling in, Shea told the crowd “even that is not enough.” To add to the momentum, he said, Friends of Roland Run is exploring ways to get grant funding for stream restoration.

Bryan Seipp, of the Center for Watershed Protection, an Ellicott City-based nonprofit, outlined three major grantors for stream projects: the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund. Money from those projects, he said, could go toward engineering projects that curb flooding and runoff and enhance the health of waterways.

Shea said Friends of Roland Run intends to seek out those opportunities moving forward.

Other ideas floated by the crowd included tree and native plant planting initiatives. One woman said she would like to see Lutherville residents who want to install driveways made of pervious pavement to band together to find contractors and negotiate rates.

Asked if community members would be interested in attending more meetings and being involved with Friends of Roland Run, most attendees raised their hands.

“At the end of the day, if we can slow the water down and restore the natural state of these streams, it’s going to be good for everyone,” Shea said.

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