Do-it-yourself effort restores land


November 08, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Columbia resident Bonnie Johnson watched with dismay two years ago as hundreds of mature trees were felled near her home by the state to make way for a highway project.

Every tree taken down was "like a hole punched in my heart," said Ms. Johnson, president of the Howard County Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Yesterday, Ms. Johnson's outlook brightened considerably as she joined about 100 Columbia residents who braved raw autumn weather to plant about 300 trees at three sites.

Land had been stripped at the sites for a cloverleaf interchange, which opened in late September at Route 29 and Broken Land Parkway.

The volunteers will be asked by organizers to return in the spring to plant about 100 holly trees at the sites.

"The great thing about this project is that it's people in the community taking responsibility for restoring the land," said Ms. Johnson, a resident of the Village of Owen Brown.

Save for a few state workers on hand to assist, all of the labor was taxpayer-free.

And, all the trees -- crab apples, red maples, sawtooth oaks, heritage birch and white pines -- were donated by two local companies, River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville and Metzler's Nursery in Columbia.

State law requires the State Highway Administration to reforest areas cleared of trees for road projects. SHA usually pays the Department of Natural Resources for conifer and deciduous tree seedlings, grown on a small tree farm. Inmates in the state's boot camp program or state highway workers then plant the trees, and state foresters care for them.

Yesterday's effort saved the state money, said the project'organizer, Del. Virginia M. Thomas, D-Howard.

She hopes the planting becomes a statewide model for community-based efforts to help the state restore land cleared for public projects. The delegate says citizens could plant trees and other vegetation after a public project, say a road or school, is complete, then care for the new growth.

Such teams could be modeled after volunteer groups that "adopt" areas of roads where they clean up litter periodically, said Ms. Thomas, vice chair of the General Assembly's Environmental Matters Committee.

The chance to instill a sense of environmental stewardship imembers of his Boy Scout Troop inspired Butch Colby to bring about 20 volunteers to chip in on the project.

"The Boy Scouts are probably at the forefront of teaching kids about the interconnections in nature and how people affect those interconnections," said Mr. Colby, scoutmaster of Troop 601 in Columbia.

"They learn a lot about how trees affect air and water quality and are great at protecting against soil erosion."

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, on hand to observe the effort -- and plant a red maple, despite his suit and tie -- said he liked the idea of setting up community-based teams to help the state restore land.

"I go to a lot of tree-planting projects around the state," Mr. Schaefer said. "What you find is that people really want to be part of restoring the environment. They just need to be educated [about] how to get involved."

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