Green therapy

April 05, 2006

With Baltimore temperatures already hitting 70 degrees, the idea of doubling the city's tree canopy sounds positively refreshing. The plan is ecologically inspired and tremendously appealing, especially if you've lived through a sweltering Baltimore summer with nary a spot of shade in sight.

Today, maple, oak, dogwood, gingko, cherry and pear trees dominate the urban forest here, covering about 20 percent of the cityscape, slightly less than the national average of 23 percent. The city plants about 2,000 trees a year, and requests are considered. As city planners and forestry experts discuss ways to increase that cover over the next 30 years, they should include hardy species that require less maintenance to ensure they take root and flourish.

Between now and next March, when the plan is due, city officials will explore ways to finance the project. Much of the new growth, they say, will have to occur outside the city's parks and forests. That means property owners will need to participate - so start scouting for that perfect spot of green to showcase a blossoming cherry.

The benefits of a greater tree canopy can't be oversold: cleaner air and water, reduced energy costs, respite from the harsh, glaring sun, a blow against global warming. The plus for humankind is simply this: a leafy, green embrace that returns year after year.

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