Baltimore TreeKeepers teach residents how to care for trees

A new program in Baltimore, Maryland, has recently upped its proactive approach to caring for city trees.

treebaltimoreThanks to a mutual effort by the city forestry board, the nonprofit Baltimore Tree Trust and Tree Baltimore, residents citywide are able to sign up for Baltimore TreeKeepers, which offers free tree stewardship classes and will aid in achieving the city’s goal of increasing tree canopy from 27-40 percent by 2040.

In a Baltimore Sun article, Amanda Cunningham, executive director of Baltimore Tree Trust, said TreeKeepers mission is “to get more trees in the ground, protect the ones we have and educate the public. We’re trying to get trees in neighborhoods with low tree counts.”

Erik Dihle, Baltimore’s city arborist, also promoted the important role TreeKeepers will play in achieving “buy-in” from the community. “We want the citizens of Baltimore to take ownership of the beautiful heritage we have.”

More than fifty people have shown their pride and care for Baltimore’s urban forests by signing up for TreeKeepers. Residents explained they were interested in the classes because they like trees, are interested in acquiring and sharing information about trees and tree care, would like to improve neighborhoods with fewer and/or damaged trees, or have a desire to do civic work.

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Cunningham’s ultimate goal is “to train people in neighborhoods to take responsibility for basic tree planting and care.”  The TreeKeepers curriculum will also offer higher-level certification classes that requires helping at tree-planting events around the city.

Baltimore has three million trees in the city, 125,000 of them on city streets and in city parks, according to some estimates.

Cunningham  has seen the need for citywide tree care after recent storms, such as Irene and Sandy, resulted in losses to Baltimore’s tree canopy.

“Many simply fell over because the ground was so saturated, but a healthier tree canopy would be more resistant to storms, because air would move more smoothly through the trees,” said Cunningham. “A good, balanced canopy is very important to the growth of a tree.”

The Arbor Day Foundation recognizes the dynamic benefits urban forests offer communities by raising property value, adding aesthetic appeal, lowering temperatures, changing wind patterns, reducing energy use (and costs) and improving air quality.

The Baltimore TreeKeepers are a great example of environmental stewardship, helping to ensure the future sustainability of the city’s urban forests, and providing long-term benefits to the overarching community.

New study links urban trees to lower crime

Many people have personal experience with the crime-fighting potential of urban trees.

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Brew.

Just ask the New Jersey Tree Foundation – recognized with an Arbor Day Award in 2011 for their tree-planting initiatives in some of the state’s toughest neighborhoods.

Now, a new study conducted in Maryland’s Baltimore County and City, provides numbers to back up what neighbors have already seen for themselves.

According to the study in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, the frequency of crime in both the City and County decreased as the number of trees increased. Overall, a ten percent increase in tree canopy was associated with a 12 percent drop in crime.

The State of Maryland has been pioneering in its support of urban forestry, due in large part to the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley.

While proving a direct causation is nearly impossible to do, Baltimore officials and the study’s authors have speculated that the shading effect of a robust tree canopy both encourages neighbors to spend more time outside and offers the impression of a community where people take care of their surrounding and each other.

Both factors would be expected to push away gangs, drugs and other criminal activity.

Data like this offers yet another reminder of the importance of professional and well-funded urban forestry programs. According to the Baltimore Sun, the city arborist’s budget has been cut from $4.4 million to $2.9 million the last two years. Baltimore has recovered some of the money through the help of other agencies and non-profits, but imprudent budget cuts can easily lead to greater costs down the road.

In awarding the New Jersey Tree Foundation last year, we told the story of long-time Camden resident Sheila Roberts and the changes on her block that resulted from newly-planted trees.

“My neighborhood is now one of Camden’s most desired places to live,” she said. “People ask me all the time: ‘how did you do it?’ I always say the same thing: it all started with the trees.”

The Baltimore Sun has more about the study, which was co-authored by an ecologist from the U.S. Forest Service.