A worker digs a hole to plant a tree in Baltimore County's Turner Station neighborhood. Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.

A program designed to monitor the health of an influx of new trees coming to underserved Baltimore-area neighborhoods has received new federal funding.

“This funding from the federal government will help provide support to train community members in monitoring and stewardship,” said Isaac Hametz, program director of The Nature Conservancy, which oversees Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities.  “This is something that we can then help scale with local conservation partners around other kinds of tree projects.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, secured $700,000 for the program, which has already started in Baltimore County’s Turner Station neighborhood. In November, 140 trees were planted in the neighborhood. Now, the “Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities” program will be able to monitor the health of those trees to ensure they mature and benefit the neighborhood.

“Preserving green spaces . . . enhances the overall quality of life in our neighborhoods,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Maryland’s Tree Solutions Now Act will add millions of new trees to the state over the next 10 years and programs such as “Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities” are designed to strengthen that initiative. HTHC recruits community members to use a smartphone app to assess the health of those newly planted trees.

“It provides standardized methods that will help train, organizations and people locally so that we can see how this new generation of trees is doing and then follow on that,” Hametz said.

Developed by U.S. Forest Service and the Nature Conservancy, the app uses a number of criteria to determine the health of the trees. 

Hametz said overall Baltimore has a healthy tree canopy, but that the trees are concentrated in more affluent areas. Areas like Turner Station lack the benefits of quality tree cover, which Hametz says improves air quality, cools down areas in the hot summer months, and even boosts property values.

But trees have to mature and grow up healthy for any of those benefits to materialize, making the HTHC program so important, he said.

Hametz said HTHC chose Turner Station because of its history of environmental challenges. 

“The Turner Station community has historically been an African-American community that is low-lying, that has faced a litany of environmental justice challenges over time, from flooding to air quality to water quality issues,” Hametz said. “We have a real interest in investing in places where we can both address climate justice and climate adaptation.”

Hametz said his group will be holding listening sessions with community groups over the next few weeks to determine which areas of Baltimore City and Baltimore County to expand.

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Tim Swift

Tim Swift is a local freelance writer and the former features editor for the Baltimore Sun.

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1 Comment

  1. This money would probably be better spent on maintaining existing trees rather than planting new trees. So many trees in Baltimore are being strangled by vines and need to have the vines cut at the base of the tree. Prioritizing an already grown tree over planting a small tree would be more beneficial for the city and environment.

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