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Baltimore County Now

Stay informed of what's happening in Baltimore County.
Keyword: environment

photo of damages treeSaul Passe, Arborist, Baltimore County Bureau of Highways

Wow, that was a rough winter.  I hesitate to put that in the past tense for fear that Mother Nature will throw down snow and ice just to spite me.  As an employee of the Baltimore County Highways I am no stranger to the havoc that snow and ice can do to the roads, but as the Arborist for Highways I can tell you that this winter has also taken its toll on the trees. 

Baltimore County has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA community.  Many of our urban streets are lined with mature canopy trees, and even more of our rural roads are up against large forests.  Winter events involving snow, and especially ice, can put these trees under extreme pressures that will exceed their normal capabilities to support themselves.  Even if a branch doesn’t reach the point of breaking off, a quarter of an inch layer of ice on any branch is enough to make it bend significantly.  Some of these branches are hanging of the road and can become a problem for motorists, not to mention the branches that do break off and fall in the road. 

Once there are branches snapped off and laying in the road, or bending into the road what is to be done with them?  If tree debris falls from a County tree (a tree in the public right-of way), County forces are responsible for removing them from either the road or the sidewalk.  The Highways Bureau will only take care of the debris that falls into a public right-of-way; anything that comes down on private property is the responsibility of the homeowner.  Any private trees that may fall into a public right-of-way will be cleared out off of the road or sidewalk, but can’t always be taken away by County forces, and remain the responsibility of the homeowner.  The bottom line is that the care of trees along public roads is a shared responsibility.  Baltimore County provides the service of keeping our roads open and free of tree debris, and the homeowner should take care of debris on private property.

As we enter spring we should keep in mind that when leaves come out they can add a lot of weight to trees.  There may be some branches that have taken a beating over the winter and may be further stressed by a “full head of hair.”  Species such as White Pine and Bradford Pear are softer woods that are susceptible to failure under extreme conditions.  So, this spring, take a few minutes to look up into the canopy and take notice of our County trees.  They are a valuable resource for the County that we can take care of together to ensure a green future for generations to come.

Baltimore County Cool Treesby Vincent J. Gardina
 Director of Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability

Imagine if you invented a simple, low-cost, low-tech piece of equipment that could lower energy costs, absorb air pollution and soak up stormwater runoff. Imagine if this invention was also beautiful, cool, could be placed almost anywhere and actually raised property values and people’s sense of community. You guessed it – I’m talking about trees.

Everyone knows that planting trees helps the environment in a number of ways, but did you know that strategic tree planting actually cuts energy costs in buildings? The Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) recently completed a project to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data to optimize the planting of trees around County buildings as an affordable technique to cool buildings as well as contributing to a better local environment.  

The “Cool Trees” program planted 957 native shade trees at 46 County schools, eight police precincts/PAL centers, seven community centers, five senior centers, all three CCBC campuses, two libraries, two fire stations, and one health center. By planting trees within sixty feet of the south, west and east facades of buildings, the energy needed for cooling will be reduced by 30%. In a unique approach, EPS used GIS software to evaluate data about all County buildings, schools and CCBC buildings and identify the best locations as well as the precise spots to plant the trees to maximize energy savings.

Over just the next 30 years, the $500,000 invested in Cool Trees will provide more than $2 million in benefits, a 300% return on investment. Funded through a $7.4 million U.S. Department of Energy Grant, the goal of this grant is to reduce energy consumption and create jobs. Over the next 30 years, the $500,000 invested in Cool Trees is estimated to provide in excess of $2 million worth of energy savings and other environmental benefits – a 300% return on investment.

We chose the name “Cool Trees” because trees are cool, as in nifty, dandy, keen and marvelous. They are also cool as in temperature reducing. If every household in Baltimore County planted a native species large canopy tree within sixty feet of the south, west or east facades of their homes, energy consumption could be reduced by 30% during the summer, and water flowing to the Bay would be cleaner and more healthy for aquatic life. Plant a tree, save energy, reduce stormwater runoff and be COOL!

The Chesapeake bay

by Vince Gardina

Director of the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability

We all know that the Chesapeake Bay and the many streams and rivers that run to it have been declining for decades, but did you know that Baltimore County has an entire team of scientists and engineers working to help restore the Bay? That's right. Baltimore County's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability has teams whose sole effort is to evaluate water quality and put in place various practices and construction projects designed to restore water quality by cleaning storm water as it runs off of our houses, buildings, roads and parking lots. The goal is to remove pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment from these waters so that they don't end up in the Bay. You see, these pollutants harm the water and by removing oxygen and sunlight causing fish, crabs, oysters and submerged plants to die.

Baltimore County is working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of Environment to address water quality standards required in the Clean Water Act. This federal law requires that certain polluted waterways meet what are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads for these pollutants. Basically, the pollutant concentrations in the designated waterways must be reduced to acceptable levels that do not affect wildlife or humans. The County is planning to meet these pollutant load reductions by putting in place measures called Best Management Practices. These are defined in a planning document prepared by the County and submitted to Maryland Department of Environment. All of these measures to reduce pollutants must be in place by 2025.

What kind of practices and capital projects will help restore the Bay? There are hundreds, but the most effective ones are stream restorations, storm water management facility upgrades, shoreline stabilization, bioretention systems and tree plantings. However, this isn't just a job for us. Every county resident can help these efforts by applying less lawn fertilizer, using rain barrels to catch storm water, planting trees on their property, building a rain garden, keeping grass at least three inches high, and removing a sidewalk or paved area and replacing it with pavers or stone.

For more information on our efforts to keep the Bay clean and safe, go to

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