Baltimore County Council OKs bill inspired by controversial tree-painting project

The Baltimore County Council voted Monday to give the county’s environmental director an oversight role when there are proposals for projects that could harm wildlife in county parks.

The council voted 6-1 to pass the legislation, which was inspired by a tree-painting project in Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville that had environmentalists and park volunteers crying foul.

The Nikki Perlow Foundation, which supports young people fighting addiction, received county approval to paint artistic designs on about 50 trees at the park. Called the Forest of Hope, the project was intended to inspire and honor those battling addiction, and was installed in September 2017.

But members of the park’s volunteer nature council and the county’s environmental advisory commission questioned why county officials approved the project, which they say could hinder trees’ ability to exchange gasses through the bark.

Under existing law, the county’s director of the Department of Recreation and Parks has the authority to approve events or projects that would affect a park’s flora or fauna. The bill approved Monday requires the parks director to consult with the director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability. The bill goes into effect Oct. 15.

Councilman Wade Kach, a Republican whose district includes Oregon Ridge, said he’s certain the current county administration wouldn’t approve a project like this again. But he wanted to put a safeguard in place because a new county executive will be elected next month.

“This law needs to be in place so that this can never happen again,” said Kach, who was one of the sponsors of the bill.

The bill also was sponsored by Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican; and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.

The lone vote against the bill came from Council Chairman Julian Jones, a Woodstock Democrat who said he didn’t feel it was necessary to write a new law to address the issue.

“At the end of the day, we all agree it’s a poor decision and we’re not going to do it again,” Jones said. “I just don't think that’s a reason that this body should come up with legislation.”

pwood@baltsun.com

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