Realizing the vision of a city transformed by trees

March 05, 2012

The U.S. Forest Service's study co-authored by David Nowak that found Baltimore has lost nearly 2 percent of its tree canopy in four years is a call to action ("Study finds Baltimore, other cities losing trees," Feb. 28).

Of our 2.6 million trees, one quarter are dead, distressed or dying. Baltimore's canopy has withered to 25 percent, whereas a healthy city's tree canopy shades 40 percent of its land mass. Our children know that trees supply our oxygen, that they soften and cool our urban cement-scape. But we adults neglect this valuable natural resource that cleans industrial particulates from the air and sucks up polluted storm runoff before it washes into the Chesapeake Bay.

Our neighborhoods with the fewest trees suffer the highest incidence of childhood asthma. By contrast, tree-lined communities attract people, lower crime and improve home sales. In fact, they transform cities.

In 2010 Baltimore pledged to reach a 40 percent tree canopy by 2037. That's a fine goal that will require planting 25,000 new trees every year. The TreeBaltimore program, a mayoral initiative, is planting or giving away 6,700 trees this year, but it needs generous support from citizens, businesses and institutions. Public/private partnerships on a grand scale are what we must undertake.

The Baltimore Tree Trust has created the McElderry Park Trees for Public Health Project, which works with East Baltimore residents, donors and the city to inventory existing trees and to plant 800 new trees in over the next five years.

We hope to see this replicated throughout the city if the vision of a Baltimore transformed by trees is to be realized.

Sarah Lord and Jill Jonnes, Baltimore

The writers are, respectively, chairwoman of the Baltimore City Forestry Board and president of the Baltimore Tree Trust.

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