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Volunteers plant trees, maintain trails, helping Howard County Conservancy to mark Earth Day

The Baltimore Sun

Cub Scout Cameron Coster, 9, scoured a field looking for a place to plant a tree. He was with his mother, Lisa, and two other Webelos from Cub Scout Pack 762 in West Friendship.

"I've planted three or four trees. It feels good because I know I'm helping the environment." Cameron said. "It's really fun."

He was one of more than 100 people who volunteered at the Howard County Conservancy at Mount Pleasant on Saturday morning to celebrate Earth Day. Volunteers planted trees, spread mulch and cleared invasive plants.

"It's nice to have a hands-on activity for Earth Day," said Grace Kubofcik, who has worked at the conservancy for five years. "Plus, there's only five of us to maintain 232 acres. So it's very nice to have all these extra hands to help."

Meg Schumacher, director of the conservancy, was happy with the turnout.

"It's one of the days we really count on to get work done," Schumacher said. "I think people realize we need to do something about the environment, and this gives them the opportunity."

Many of the volunteers helped plant 300 trees in a 10-acre field that is being reforested. Ryan Wilkinson, 13, was working to meet a service requirement for his confirmation at St. Alphonsus Church.

"It makes me feel good that I'm helping the community and that I'm helping to re-grow the forest," Ryan said. "On Earth Day, we're supposed to make the earth better, and reforesting will help."

Mahmoud Abouelrous, 20, was one of about 30 students who volunteered from Howard Community College. The students were members of the Rouse Scholars, an honors and leadership program at HCC that encourages academic success and community involvement.

"We're supposed to be role models," Abouelrous said. "It's good to let everybody know it's our community and our environment. If we don't take care of it, who will?"

Abouelrous helped clear multiflora rose, an invasive plant that strangles other undergrowth, and plant 25 berry bushes around a bird observatory to attract more birds to the area.

"It's great what they're doing," Kubofcik said. "You're sort of re-creating nature."

Maura Dunnigan, a Rouse Scholars instructor, said her students hear about global warming and pollution all the time in class, but they do not always have the opportunity to act on what they learn.

"When they get out here and do something, they can feel in control," Dunnigan said. "It's great to see all the students working together and doing something hands-on."

After the three-hour work session, presentations were scheduled in the conservancy's education center, and a nature hike was planned for the volunteers. Middle school students also presented posters they had made about pollution and global warming. Yechun Fu, an eighth-grader from Hammond Middle School, made a poster about the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

"I wanted to show the conservancy how the Chesapeake Bay is being polluted and what we can do about it," Yechun said.

Marianne Alexander, a conservancy board member, said she was glad to see students interested in helping the environment because so many choose to stay inside.

"It's great to see people outside and enjoying the outside," Alexander said. "This is a message that people are concerned about the environment in Howard County."

Ned Tillman, who has worked at the conservancy for 12 years and is on County Executive Ken Ulman's task force to make the county go "green," said he thinks it is the one time of year when people should feel the need to be outside.

"I hope it's that one day of the year when people will just slow down, live deliberately and experience nature," Tillman said.

He said he has noticed the effect the day can have on some people.

"When you get people out here, something happens to their eyes, they lighten up -- they realize the importance of being outside," Tillman said. "A lot of people have lost their connection with nature."

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