Tree lover's passion put to practical use NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

October 22, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Linda Donaldson loves the gigantic walnut tree, with its branches that spread over her New Windsor home like bony fingers extended to grasp the roof below.

Even when she dodged nuts that were dropped by squirrels that had taken up residence in the knotty trunk last fall, she felt that the tree gave her so much more than she could ever repay.

So she decided to say, "Thank you."

As head of the town's newly formed tree committee, Ms. Donaldson works with her group to replenish the area's tree population, giving back to the town those things that had always given her great joy.

"Trees give us so much -- shade, beauty, fruits, a place for creatures to live," said Ms. Donaldson, an assistant teacher at the Montessori School of Westminster, where her two daughters -- Emily, 8, and Grace, 5 -- are enrolled. "They do so much more for us than people think."

Although she grew up in a one-tree East Baltimore neighborhood, Ms. Donaldson said she was no stranger to trees and entertained the idea of living where trees shaded the streets for blocks.

When she married banker Thomas Donaldson and moved to Roland Park, the lush tree-lined streets made her feel as if she were living in the country.

But her introduction to New Windsor left her particularly uninspired.

"We moved out here and the first thing I thought was, 'Wow, we need some trees,' " said Ms. Donaldson. "And when they took away the tree in front of our house while they were widening the street and said there was no plan to replace it, I knew something had to be done."

Ms. Donaldson presented her ideas about planting trees to the Town Council in August, but she wasn't sure anyone would see things her way.

The council not only accepted her ideas, but its members began brainstorming about how the forestation could be accomplished. They asked Ms. Donaldson to begin the project by having a forester survey the town for potential planting.

"They understood the importance of what I was saying," Ms. Donaldson said.

"They know that we need to start planting trees to begin preparing for the future," she said.

Her desire to turn the town into a "tree city" stems from more than just a love of trees.

The pollution problem in this country could be solved, if not severely reduced, she said, if trees that had been previously removed are replaced and more trees are planted in barren areas.

"You listen to the television and read the newspaper and hear about pollution, how it's getting out of hand," Ms. Donaldson said. "I read about a town in Germany where pollution was so bad they did not know how to handle it.

"They ended up planting trees, and in matter of time the pollution problem was eliminated," she said.

"When thinking about the pollution problem, some people think their hands are tied. But planting the tree is easy. It is such a small thing that does so much."

Ms. Donaldson is an avid walker and a member of the Maryland Mountain Club, a statewide organization involved in hiking and nature walks.

She said trees add to the enjoyment of her weekly treks, as they provide shade during hot summer months and provide protection from the wind on cold days.

Aside from the obvious merits in planting trees, Ms. Donaldson said, there are some special, almost magical things that must be preserved.

"The walnut tree out back used to give us a few dozen nuts every fall, not much else," Ms. Donaldson said. "Well, coming off that last big drought last summer, the tree gave us bushels -- I mean several bushels -- of nuts.

"It's as if the tree was saying, 'I know I'm going to die, but I' m going to give you everything I've got before I go,' " she said motioning to the large, looming tree, which has a makeshift swing attached to one of its thick branches.

"It didn't die either. It's still out there, doing its job."

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