An Ellicott City group is offering an exchange that it says will improve two streams that run through the historic town: It'll give you trees if you'll plant them.
A nominal fee is involved - $5 a tree - but most of the project's cost is covered by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Ellicott City Restoration Foundation hopes that planting trees within the watershed of Tiber and Hudson streams will reduce erosion and pollutants in the water.
The two streams run through historic Ellicott City and flow into the Patapsco River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. The streams' watershed surrounds the city's historic district, which means that any rainwater falling in the area flows into the Tiber or Hudson, said Jacquelyn Galke, project director of the foundation's Tiber-Hudson Watershed Partnership.
If too little rainwater is absorbed before it runs into the streams, it can erode the streambeds. That's where trees can help, Galke said. "Ninety percent of the rainfall will be absorbed back in the earth if we have these trees," she said.
At the same time, the trees will absorb pollutants - such as fertilizers and pesticides - that the rain picks up when it hits the ground.
Although it has organized stream cleanups before, the restoration foundation has never co- ordinated a tree-planting effort, said president Ed Lilley.
About a dozen people have signed up to plant trees, which will be native to the state, Galke said.
Anyone can participate, as long as they plant the tree within the watershed and promise to tend to it after it is planted, she said. The trees will be delivered early next month, and the foundation hopes to have a final list of volunteers by Oct. 16.
Galke thinks the project will give people a better understanding of how watersheds work.
"I think people do think about it, and yet, sometimes they think of the mammoth watershed and don't think of how it starts in their back yard," she said. "They might say, `I don't live near a stream.' But we all live near a stream, even if it's a block away."
In the spring, project coordinators will test the quality of the Tiber and Hudson streams, Galke said.
"I guess the bottom line is, we're trying to still clean up the Chesapeake Bay," she said. "What better place to start [than] in our own back yard?"
To sign up for a tree: Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, 410- 480-0822.