Volunteer group to plant a pollution barrier

Wyman stream target of clean water plan

February 28, 2000|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A casual visitor to Wyman Park in North Baltimore likely will see a neighborhood park where locals walk their dogs, and a field where college students play soccer alongside a grassy stream bank.

But what Baltimore park forester Patricia Pyle notices is the Jones Falls' most polluted tributary, Stony Run, next to a clearing where trees belong. Pyle hopes that by late spring visitors to the park will see about 300 more trees and shrubs beside the stream's banks.

Pyle, who works for the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, has teamed with Jones Falls Watershed Association to organize a volunteer effort to build a riparian forest buffer at the banks of Stony Run.

The man-made woods would mimic nature's first line of defense for streams against pollution, soil erosion and other threats. Pyle said she is looking for anyone to help -- even if they don't know what riparian means, or have never planted a tree.

The Wyman Park buffer is the first of three Baltimore stream reforestation projects. Pyle's office also is looking for volunteers to do the same jobs in April at Herring Run Park in Northeast Baltimore and on the grounds of Gwynns Falls Recreation Center.

Wyman Park volunteers will attend a two-day workshop in late March in which they will learn how to plan and design a streamside forest buffer, deciding which tree species survive best where, and mixing species to create a balance of shade and sun. Pyle expects to plant fast-growing green ash, silver maple and oak trees. After these trees have grown tall enough to create a canopy, volunteers will return to plant other trees that do not grow as quickly and need shade from bigger trees.

Once volunteers finalize the buffer plan at the second workshop, Pyle and Kathleen Warren -- her counterpart from the watershed association -- will deliver trees to the park, and volunteers will spend two Saturdays in April planting them. Pyle also is looking for volunteers to water, mulch and prune the trees as they grow.

"If we want to replace trees, the community really has to step up to the plate and do it," Pyle said. Little government funding is available for such projects, she said.

The labor is free, but Pyle and the watershed association had to find funds to buy trees, shrubs and supplies. Pyle and Warren bypassed buying seedlings, the cheaper choice, for more mature trees that are more likely to survive. The Wyman Park project will cost about $7,500 and will be paid for with grant money from the U.S. Forest Service and the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

A riparian -- meaning streamside -- forest buffer stretches 35 to 100 feet from a stream bank and is a stream's main defense from pollutants. The trees trap sediment before it is deposited in the stream, and deep tree and shrub roots absorb excess nutrients and chemicals that suffocate stream life.

Some environmentalists question the effectiveness of building forest buffers in urban areas, Pyle said. It is a relatively new theory and few studies have been conducted on riparian forest buffers in cities.

Pyle and Warren dismiss that assertion. They believe the benefits of a buffer outweigh any negative effects they might not know about.

Not only will a forest improve water and air quality, but trees make parks prettier, Warren said.

"Usually run-down areas where people don't want to live don't have many trees," Warren said. "By increasing the amount of green in these areas, people will start wanting to move back to the city."

Wyman Park project workshops will be March 18 and 22 and trees will be planted April 1 and April 8. Herring Run project workshops will be April 1 and 5 and trees will be planted April 15. The Gwynns Falls project workshops will be April 1 and 6 and trees will be planted April 22. Information: 410- 396-0339.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.