Annapolis intends to branch out

As Arbor Day approaches, officials focus on expanding an already lush tree canopy


To the people who live in Annapolis, there's probably no such thing as too many trees.

With almost 40 percent of the city covered by trees, Mayor Ellen O. Moyer and the Annapolis Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs are trying to ensure that the lush canopy is maintained - one tree at a time.

To that end, city officials are planning several events this month in the run-up to National Arbor Day, April 28, when they will unveil a roof covered with greenery at Back Creek Nature Park on Edgewood Road.

Annapolis is already looking quite green.

Marisa Wittlinger, a city environmentalist, said 39 percent of the city is covered by trees. By comparison, Baltimore's tree canopy covered about 20 percent of the city, according to 2001 satellite photos. The city is seeking to double the canopy over the next 30 years.

In Annapolis, Wittlinger said, "We're doing very well, but there's always room for improvement."

In past years, the city has celebrated Maryland Arbor Day, which falls the first Wednesday in April, by gathering youngsters and planting trees at schools and parks.

This year the city chose to focus on renewal and stress the importance of replacing the old with the new.

Last month, Annapolis resident Marjorie Q. Gibson called Wittlinger and told her about a tree that was dying in her backyard.

Gibson feared that the tree, a 50-year-old black cherry, might fall on her house, but she didn't have the resources to remove it. The city decided to pitch in and help Gibson, 85, take the tree down.

Rod McNeil, of Royal Tree Service in Crownsville, cut the tree down and replaced it with a white dogwood, a tree that is native to the area, he said.

Dogwoods are slow growers, McNeil said, but by next spring the tree will offer a profusion of flowers. The tree will attract birds and squirrels to Gibson's yard.

Moyer said that when trees have to be removed, it is important to replace them.

"The city has been very active in doing things that maintain our tree canopy," Moyer said. "We are Tree City, U.S.A."

The environmental committee is working on benchmark goals and policies to ensure that the tree canopy is maintained and expanded, Moyer said.

"A large tree canopy helps filter rain pollutants and helps reduce heat accumulation," she said. "We want trees as part of our landscape."

Moyer said that her goal of planting 1,000 trees as part of the city's Clean Air Initiative has been met.

As for Gibson and her new backyard tree, she said she is looking forward to watching her tree grow and become a part of the city's landscape.

When she moved to Annapolis 50 years ago, she planted a white dogwood in her front yard but the sapling died after she damaged one of its roots. She said she will take care of her new dogwood and water it a few times a week as it takes root.

"I'm going to get some holy water from church to make it grow faster," she said.

Standing next to her tree and looking at the small green buds, Gibson added:

"When you look at this, you see the beauty of what this will become. They will bloom and be beautiful. That is what the circle of life is all about."

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