Volunteers plant 847 trees to create buffer for stream Scouts earn badges, help curb pollution

November 25, 1996|By Tonya Jameson | Tonya Jameson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jumping on a shovel almost bigger than himself, 9-year-old Josh Sturgill tried to drive the blade into hard soil during a tree planting near Centennial High School in Ellicott City.

Though the Webelo Scout from Pack 615 could only shake loose about a handful of dirt, he understood the importance of his task. "If humans don't have trees, they're going to die because they don't have air," he said.

Josh was one of about 40 volunteers planting trees on the banks of a small stream off Tuscany Drive on a recent Saturday. The volunteers planted 847 trees to create stream buffers to improve the quality of water by removing or lessening the effects of pollutants in runoff.

Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks and several concerned citizens sponsored the planting off Tuscany Drive and another later that day at wetlands in a park in nearby Font Hill.

This year, Recreation and Parks employees and volunteers have planted 3,277 trees and plants on 9,109 acres in Howard County.

Organizer Cynthia Hirshberg, a community volunteer who lives on St. John's Lane in Ellicott City, said tree plantings give local residents an opportunity to help protect the Chesapeake Bay without leaving the county. Area streams and rivers are all bay tributaries, she said.

"The big challenge in taking care of the bay now is nonpoint-source pollution," Hirshberg said. "That's you and me out in our back yard."

Stream buffers improve the quality of water because trees and shrubs filter and trap sediment and absorb pollutants from runoff. An excess of some nutrients causes the rapid growth of algae in the bay and streams, which can cause underwater plants to die and disrupt the food chain.

On Tuscany Drive, volunteers planted 30 species of trees on 2.8 acres of land along the narrow stream. Some trees, such as red maple, provide a buffer and wildlife food; others, such as redbuds, provide a buffer, erosion control and attractive flowers.

The trees looked like twigs dotting the open field, but many will grow to be at least 35 feet tall.

Josh and other Scouts from Pack 615 at Running Brook Elementary School used the project to help earn their conservation badges. Nancy Farley, Webelos 615 pack leader, said the tree planting was a good opportunity to earn the patch and apply what they learned.

"The kids are really into outdoors," Farley said. "They've been learning in school about environmental protection."

Dan McNamara, Recreation and Parks specialist for natural resources, said the volunteers were instrumental in getting the project finished. Without the volunteers, it would have taken his crew of eight men at least two days, he said.

He said residents will have to keep an eye on the trees to make sure they're not damaged.

Recreation and Parks employees arrived at the site at 7 a.m., about two hours before the volunteers, and set the trees up strategically along an open field behind several houses. Then the volunteers arrived and used shovels and, sometimes, bare hands to plant the trees.

Tommy Farley, 12, huddled at a tree breaking up the moist soil with his fingers. Tommy -- who is Nancy Farley's son, but isn't a Cub -- had dirt caked round his fingernails, but he didn't care. He was trying to help the environment.

Lynn Boerschel, president of the Patuxent Area Jaycees, worked on a tree several feet away from Tommy. She leaned on her shovel and looked at the young volunteers and their parents.

"A lot of times, [children] don't seem to know the big picture," she said. "It's good to see them come out here and get their hands dirty."

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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