Four seniors of the Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie volunteer time each week to participate in a unique form of baby-sitting -- monitoring the growth of trees.
"We all wanted to do this," said Gae Vaughn, 70. "We need trees, so we take care of them and see if they are growing or dying."
Jonathan Pearson, community organizer for Save Our Streams, had sought senior volunteers to monitor the growth and development of more than four dozen pine and maple trees. The saplings were planted in early spring at Sawmill Creek Park, adjacent to the senior center.
"The seniors at the center are providing us with a good lookout," he said. "Their help is extremely beneficial. Pauline Armes, 72, and Frances Machione, 67, were adamant about getting involved in the environmental project instituted by Pearson. "We try to do our best," Ms. Machione said, "but people are just so destructive."
Each Thursday the seniors, Ms. Vaughn, Ms. Armes, Ms. Machione and Mary Bryant, 66, and sometimes John Mabus, 82, walk approximately a mile around the park, surveying what were once 55 healthy baby trees. Now, said Ms. Armes, the number has decreased significantly.
"Bugs are eating the trees," said Ms. Vaughn, "and they seem to have some sort of disease." Some trees, such as the pines, have either been pulled out of the ground or mowed down.
The seniors call Mr. Pearson whenever they discover problems, water the trees when necessary and remove destructive insects.
Mr. Pearson said he appreciates the assistance. "They've been a great help. When a tree planting is held, it's important to watch the trees. They do this."
Members of the tree-watch express concern about the blatant lack of care for their charges. "All of the trees, especially the pine seedlings, need some sort of a fence or a pipe to protect them from the mower or from children."
"We didn't have this problem when I was young," Ms. Armes added. "The trees grew tall and green. But now, nobody seems to care."
To save the remaining trees, the seniors hope to build a protective fence around each one.
Mr. Mabus best expresses the love the seniors have for the trees through a rhyme he sings on his walks: "I never knew that there could be / a thing more lovelier than a tree."
For more information about tree-watching: 969-0084