City launches storm water cleanup campaign

Marking Earth Day, O'Malley participates in garden planting with students

April 22, 2005|By Jessica Bylander | Jessica Bylander,Special to baltimoresun.com

Mayor Martin O'Malley celebrated Earth Day this morning by participating in a sensory garden planting designed by students at Gilmor Elementary School and the Parks & People Foundation, during which he also launched a public awareness campaign aimed at providing solutions to Baltimore's urban storm water runoff.

The campaign -- created through a partnership between Adopt-A-Waterway and the city that was announced last December -- seeks to bring together local government and corporations to raise funds for storm water cleanup at no expense to local taxpayers, officials said. Under the plan, businesses will fund cleanup efforts through corporate sponsorships, according to the mayor's office.

"Every day, the city of Baltimore is becoming a cleaner, healthier, and safer place for our children to grow up," O'Malley said in a statement. "Our efforts to improve our school grounds mean better learning environments for our children, but also a healthier natural environment as we reduce runoff into our local streams and the Chesapeake Bay."

The Parks & People Foundation has been working to educate and organize the school communities in Watershed 263 -- a 930-acre watershed in Baltimore that leads into the Patapsco Middle Branch, the Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay -- to maintain outdoor classrooms and natural areas.

Throughout the month of April, second-graders at Gilmor Elementary School participated in classes on topics such as habitat, wildlife, water quality and the urban environment, which culminated in the planting of the sensory garden today.

"Earth Day is an ideal time to celebrate community revitalization projects, like this school garden, that not only create a natural area where students can learn but also make this school the heart of the community," said Jacqueline M. Carrera, executive director of the Parks & People Foundation.

Gilmor Elementary School is also one of seven schools to have unused, obsolete asphalt removed from their schoolyard as part of the Baltimore City School Greening Initiative begun by the Department of Public Works, Recreation and Parks, and Planning and other partners. Four acres of asphalt have been removed, while several more are scheduled for removal this summer, the mayor's office said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is one of the organizations that agreed to support the Adopt-A-Waterway program in Baltimore.

"Today's hands-on project will help students enrich their schoolyard in Baltimore City, become stewards of their environment and improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean," said Jim Walpole, general counsel of NOAA.

Other program sponsors and partners include BP America, Inc.; Bank of America; the Chesapeake Bay Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse, Inc.; Henrietta Development Corporation; Chesapeake Bay Roasting; and Phillips Foods, Inc. and Seafood Restaurants.

April 22, 2005, 5:24 PM EDT

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