Cleanup efforts take root

April 10, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson and James Bock | Robert A. Erlandson and James Bock,Sun Staff Writers

Community pride and neighborhood spruce-up activities were on display yesterday in several parts of Baltimore, as volunteers planted hundreds of trees, put up for sale a refurbished house and continued a large-scale cleanup.

In the 1200 block of Hollins St., community activists turned two vacant lots into the city's first grass-roots, if you will, tree nursery.

"Call us the Hollins Market Department of Natural Resources," said neighborhood leader Gary Letteron, cradling a hardwood seedling. "We will ultimately grow these to the point where we can bring them to the streets."

Volunteers from Hollins Street in Southwest Baltimore potted, watered and installed 800 seedlings provided by the National Tree Trust -- oaks, red maples, persimmons, dogwoods and other species -- at a site where tavern owner Frank Scallio once planned to put a crab house.

"I told them they were welcome to use it," said Mr. Scallio, whose family has run the bar on the block since the 1930s. "Hopefully, we won't have to cut the grass and they'll keep it clean for me."

As the seedlings mature at the Hollins Street "growing-out station," they will be transplanted to areas such as the Gwynns Falls greenway taking shape in West Baltimore.

It will be at least three years before the Hollins Market neighborhood directly benefits from its labor, Mr. Letteron said, because city life tests the ability of trees to survive.

"We're looking at this as the pleasurable part of volunteer work," said Katie O'Meara, an architect who lives in the neighborhood.

While neighbors stocked the new nursery, state officials, including Gov. William Donald Schaefer, handed out tree-planting awards on Hollins Street to communities from Cumberland to Ocean City.

Meanwhile, North Baltimore's Pen Lucy section took a step toward becoming more livable when the for sale sign -- price, $44,000 -- went up at a 70-year-old, three-bedroom house at 612 Cator Avenue that was considered a step above a slum a year ago. The home has been transformed after years of abuse.

The objective of the Housing Program of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, which rehabilitated the home, is homeownership for low-income families. The house is the fourth the groups have restored in the same block since 1989.

At the Cator Avenue house in Pen Lucy, sunshine streamed through brand-new windows, reflecting off freshly painted white walls and brightening the new, blue, wall-to-wall carpet. The bathroom, powder room and kitchen are all new, along with the roof, rear deck and high-efficiency gas furnace.

"I never dreamed I could own a house" said Robert Nowlin, who bought the first rehabilitated Cator Avenue house in 1989, moving there from East Baltimore. He said it has changed his life. Now in his second year as president of the Pen Lucy Community Association, he has built a reputation as neighborhood gadfly, urging his neighbors to crack down on crime.

The Cathedral Housing Program began in 1988 by raising enough money to buy the first house on Cator Avenue and using the proceeds from selling it to buy the next. The same procedure has continued.

Contractors do the major repairs and interior work, and volunteers from all of the cathedral's organizations pitch in with "cosmetic work" such as carpentry and painting.

The requirements for buying a rehabilitated house are gross annual income between $12,500 and $27,000, a steady job or assured income, and good credit. Information may be obtained by calling St. Ambrose at (410) 235-5770.

Also yesterday, in the Barclay-Midway neighborhood, scene of a highly publicized drug sweep on March 19, city workers and volunteers continued a two-day effort to clean up debris, enforce the city housing code and assist residents.

The Barclay-Midway effort involves 11 city departments and community residents. It includes city plans to rehabilitate three houses along North Avenue.

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