Baltimoreans mark rainy Earth Day

Rain fell on Earth Day, but Baltimoreans marking the day figured trees still need to be planted, neighborhoods cleaned up and a statement made about responsibility to the planet.

A soaking rain Saturday might have been an impediment, but it was a natural one and easily overcome.

"We said rain or shine, and we've got committed people," said Brian Crook, one of the leaders of an Earth Day-timed cleanup of the Mount Clare neighborhood in Southwest Baltimore.

Baltimoreans marked the the 47th observance of Earth Day with a series of projects, including neighborhood beautification efforts and tree plantings. About 30 volunteers of the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy arrived on the soggy morning with shovels and stakes at Loch Raven Reservoir and planted 100 trees, including flowering dogwoods, white oaks and northern red oaks.

Some Marylanders, including more than 100 representatives of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's Meyerhoff Scholars Program, attended the March for Science on the National Mall in Washington. "The crowds were insane. It was a great thing to be a part of history," said Erwin Cabrera, a 2010 program graduate.

A measure of the Mount Clare project's success was that by midafternoon, a large pile of debris — including discarded mattresses, cushions and tires — had been collected by volunteers near Traci Atkins Park and was ready to be hauled away. A cookout was held afterward.

"We identified some alleys, some streets and some parks here in the neighborhood that had become dumping sites," said Crook, director of missions at the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, which collaborated on the project with the Southwest Partnership.

"We were out all morning, and we've got a huge pile of trash here. We took before-and-after pictures. We were waterlogged a little but still had smiles on our faces," Crook said.

The Rev. Steven Fleck, pastor of New Southwest Baptist Church in Baltimore, also participated, saying churches have a natural responsibility to maintain the Earth.

"It's all God's creation," Fleck said.

Gunpowder Valley Conservancy organized volunteers from Towson University, Marriott Corp., and a local Girl Scout troop for the work at the reservoir.

"I'm the waterboy," said one of the volunteers, Bob Batchelor of Hydes, who arrived in a truck with water for the plantings. "Trees are essential to our planet."

The shoveling and planting in the rain and mist didn't make for an easy morning. ("Do you like being outside in nature and don't mind working hard?" the conservancy had said in an online recruitment message.)

When the volunteers were finished, the rolling terrain adjacent to the reservoir was dotted with about 100 staked trees.

The conservancy is involved in a number of projects, including tree plantings and working with homeowners to install rain barrels.

"The volunteer interest is fantastic," said Peg Perry, the nonprofit organization's program director. "Everybody wants to plant trees," she said.

"I've been doing this 10 years. Of all the things we do, tree planting is the most popular. So we never have a problem recruiting enough volunteers. Except possibly on a rainy day. But it didn't keep them away today."

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