While strolling the woods at the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center in November 2005, Frank Lopez noticed that the tops of the white pine trees looked unusually white.
The scene was eerily familiar to Lopez, a project forester for the state. In the summer of 2005, he had been called in to help with a beetle infestation that destroyed 28 acres of white pines at Broad Creek Scout Reservation in Whiteford.
"Because I had dealt with it before, I knew it was a problem that needed to be identified quickly," said Lopez, who has worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources forest service for 19 years.
State entomologists summoned to Harford Glen by county school officials confirmed that the white pine trees had been invaded by four species of beetles. Once established, the insects can kill a stand of white pine trees within months, Lopez said.
Thousands of trees on about 25 acres of the 360-acre site off Wheel Road near Bel Air had to be destroyed, said Mark Herzog, assistant supervisor of science for the county schools.
But rather than dwell on the damage done at Harford Glen, school officials are working to turn the replanting of more than 5,000 trees into an educational opportunity, inviting school groups and organizations to help with the replanting.
On Friday, volunteers are expected to go to Harford Glen and plant trees. The Arbor Day event will begin at 9 a.m. and will include a short presentation on the history of Arbor Day, a ceremonial tree planting, and demonstrations on planting and protecting the trees.
The county planning and zoning department is providing the 13 species of trees. The diversity should help prevent future infestations, Lopez said.
Decades ago, the original trees were planted about the same time in rows that were too close together, he said.
"By planting a mixture of trees, we may lose trees throughout the forest, but we won't lose them all," Lopez said.
Several factors contributed to the infestation, Herzog said, including a lack of sunlight that led to stress on the trees.
Once the infestations are established, they spread rapidly, Lopez said.
"When the problem occurred at Broad Creek Scout Reservation, trees that were mildly infected quickly got worse," he said.
As a result all of the trees have to be destroyed, he said.
"The woods are used a lot for hiking and educational programs," Lopez said. "Because of the decline of the trees and for the safety of the public, removing the trees became a primary concern."
The tree removal will be completed by mid-April by Glatfelter Wood Pulp Co. of York, Pa. The company also is buying the pulp, Herzog said. The advantage of the tree removal is that it is a recycling project, Herzog said.
The lumber is unusable because it's in such bad condition, he said. Instead it will be turned into pulp, then into playing cards.
The replanting project is so large that the staff at the center - four teachers, an office manager, a nurse and two custodians - weren't able to undertake it alone.
"We are an education center, and this project is full of educational opportunities," Herzog said.
"We want the kids to help so that when they come back to visit, or their kids come here, they can show them the trees that they helped to plant."
Information about the project was sent to county schools, and students are clamoring to help, Herzog said. One student at the Science and Math Academy in Aberdeen wants to monitor which of the 13 species deer are most likely to eat, Herzog said.
Keeping the deer at bay also will be an objective of the re-planting project.
"We are definitely over our deer carrying capacity at Harford Glen," said Herzog, referring to the space available to sustain the deer population. "So we have to do what we can to protect the seedlings until they are large enough to live without protection."
Planters will be taught how to place sleeves on the trees, Herzog said. The sleeves are more expensive than the trees, so students and groups adopting areas will have to include the ways they plan to protect the trees before they begin their project.
"They will have to analyze the land and the area around it," Herzog said. "We want to create a naturally diverse forest. We have to create what Mother Nature does, and we know that natural is always better."
Beetles vs. trees
The types of beetles that infested trees at Harford Glen:
Pine bark adelgid
The species of trees that will be planted:
Northern red oak