Three years ago, Baltimore resident Warren Street was walking to a local supermarket when he noticed a barren landscape: There were no trees in his neighborhood.
The city had been cutting down trees but not replacing them, said Warren, a florist and the vice president of the McElderry Park Community Association in Southeast Baltimore. So he set out to increase the neighborhood’s tree canopy and to create a more sustainable, environmentally aware community. He connected with the nonprofit Baltimore Tree Trust, and they’ve since planted more than 300 trees along the neighborhood’s streets.
Baltimore Tree Trust was one of 34 organizations and towns throughout Maryland and the surrounding region that received grant funding Tuesday for storm water runoff and green infrastructure projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Trust awarded more than $3.7 million in grants through the Green Streets, Green Towns, Green Jobs (G3) initiative, the largest amount since the collaborative program began in 2011.
“I just wanted McElderry Park to be a suburb in the city,” Warren said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvements, especially in the 400 block of Kenwood Ave. They had no trees at all.”
Amanda Cunningham, executive director of the Baltimore Tree Trust, said the organization will use the greening program grant to double and maintain the tree canopy in McElderry Park and to begin planting in the Old Goucher neighborhood in central Baltimore. She said the trees help to cool streets, make the community a more livable place, and add jobs for young residents.
“We’re building a force of people to speak out about the value of trees,” Cunningham said. “We’re teaching people and getting involved in something that is positive for the community.”
Wednesday’s event took place outside 100 E. Pratt St., where the city built a bio-retention area to collect and filter rainwater. In 2008, the city began an initiative to improve the street’s landscape and to lower the number of pollutants that ends up in the Inner Harbor, said Kirby Fowler, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore president.
Rainwater that falls on the sidewalk area slides down slots in the ground and passes through a deep soil filtering system. By the time storm water ends up in the Inner Harbor, Fowler said, it’s clean. The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore received $249,913 to complete a similar project at 400 E. Pratt St.
“We want to grow and promote downtown Baltimore. Our goals are tied into preserving the Chesapeake Bay and preserving the Inner Harbor,” Fowler said. “Every step we take is to bring more people into downtown so our farmlands are preserved and also to make sure that garbage doesn’t end up in the inner harbor.”
Along with 24 grant recipients in Maryland, award recipients included towns, nonprofits and universities in Washington, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.
In the nation’s capital, the American Society of Landscape Architects is developing a series of green streets in Chinatown to improve storm water runoff management and create a more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood.
The Chinatown project aims to be a “world class model” for cities and towns across the nation through documenting its design and implementation process, said Deborah Steinberg, ASLA professional practice manager. The group selected its design team Monday and will use its grant money to develop the project’s master plan.
“The city has been integrating green streets, but there wasn’t one multi-block location to see it all,” Steinberg said. “There was no documentation process. We want to help landscape architects and city officials, district officials, through this large-scale demonstration project.”
Guy Hager of Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation wants to use the grant money his organization received to make the city a healthier place to live and to attract more residents. The organization received $250,000 for a tree pit creation and expansion project in western neighborhoods of the city.
“It’s not just about beautiful landscaping,” said Parks & People’s senior director of great parks, clean streams and green communities. “We’re trying to improve the quality of life for residents.”