Skip Navigation

Policy and Guidelines for Community Tree Planting

Background and Purpose

In October 2012, Baltimore County agencies developed a formal document, Policy and Guidelines for Community Tree Planting Projects. Because space for planting on public lands is limited, a process for review of planting proposals has been established for the following purposes:

  • To assure that the County can meet its reforestation mitigation obligations under the Maryland Forest Conservation Act and the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Act. The Policy establishes that the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) may reserve sites in order to meet these obligations. EPS is especially likely to reserve planting sites greater than one acre.
  • To improve the long-term success of community planting projects on public lands. Many past projects have not reached their potential due to improper species selection, tree spacing and maintenance. Under the Guidelines, EPS reviewers assure that each planting proposal meets standards that maximize the chances of long-term survival and tree health. Survival is critical to assure return on investment and to contribute as creditable practices toward Chesapeake Bay restoration programs. The need to favor our high-function oak-dominated canopies is a strong theme throughout.

The Policy and Guidelines below were updated in April 2013 to include updated contact information, to update the street tree planting approval process, to provide additions to tree species lists and to reduce the minimum tree caliper size for single-tree settings to 1.5 inches.

Underlying Principles

  • Successful tree planting requires careful planning, proper planting technique and diligent maintenance, with awareness of specific site conditions.
  • Ecosystem functions and community benefits (shade and cooling, aesthetics) are optimized from trees that are healthy and that grow to maturity with well-developed crowns.

Approval Process and Guidelines

Citizens and community groups who wish to plant on Baltimore County property (parks, public schools, libraries and fire stations) are welcome to contact EPS to inquire about a particular site. Contact information is listed below.

Once the site is approved, citizens and groups should refer to the Policy and Guidelines for Community Tree Planting Projects (PDF) for details on developing successful tree planting plans. The Policy and Guidelines explain each step of the planting plan development, implementation and maintenance process. Planting plans are subject to review by EPS, which will evaluate the proposal for proper tree spacing, arrangement and species selection. Approved plans must guarantee ongoing site monitoring and maintenance for at least three years.

Update to the Policy and Guidelines

Due to the prevalence of planting strips or medians less than eight feet within the County, the County has updated the Policy and Guidelines for planting in strips or medians less than 8 feet wide. Because of the limitations of tree survival in small planting areas, as well as the cost and public safety concerns associated with sidewalk upheaval, no exceptions can be made to the policy for strips or medians.

  • Areas 8 feet or greater from curb to sidewalk: Only canopy species may be planted
  • Areas 6 to 8 feet from curb to sidewalk: Only canopy species may be planted and a root barrier must be installed
  • Areas 4 to 6 feet from curb to sidewalk: Only mid-story species may be planted and a root barrier must be installed
  • Areas under 4 feet from curb to sidewalk: Tree planting is not permitted

You may use any commercially sold root barriers that are 18 inches deep. Root barriers should extend 4 feet on either side of the center of the planted tree for a total barrier length of 8 feet. Remember to consider the cost of root barriers when determining your budget.

The above update does not apply to Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) property. All trees planted on property owned and maintained by BCPS must be planted 10 feet from sidewalks and walkways.

Tree Spacing

When planting trees on County-owned land, the use, function and maintenance of the facilities must be considered. In general, reforestation trees are spaced no less than 15 feet apart. Depending on maintenance requirements, larger spacing may be required. Landscape trees should be placed 30 feet apart in order to maximize crown spread, biomass and aesthetic appeal. In addition, the following spacing requirements for utilities should be followed:

Street Trees

  • 25 feet from intersections
  • 25 feet from road signs
  • 10 feet from fire hydrants
  • 20 feet from overhead utilities
  • 25 feet from street lights
  • 15 feet from other underground utilities

All Other Plantings

  • 25 feet from intersections
  • 25 feet from road signs
  • 10 feet from fire hydrants
  • 20 feet from overhead utilities
  • 25 feet from street lights
  • 30 feet from storm drain inlets and outlets
  • 15 feet from all underground utilities
  • 30 feet from buildings
  • 35 feet from baseball diamonds

Additional Forms

Planting plans (aerial maps) submitted for approval must be accompanied by a Planting Narrative Form (PDF). The Narrative Form provides important contact information, as well as details that enable EPS to properly evaluate the planting plan.

Projects must be inspected and maintained on an ongoing basis for three years after planting. An Annual Maintenance Report Form (PDF) must be submitted to EPS each year, summarizing issues and maintenance tasks completed at the project site.

Contact Information

For more information about the program, please use the contact information below.
Phone: 410-887-1369

Revised January 31, 2022         


A new website for Baltimore County

We're working to provide you with a better experience, and want your feedback. Learn more about our project and give your feedback.

Follow Clean Green Baltimore County

a heron standing by a lake

Clean Green Baltimore County provides residents and businesses with the latest news and information on county initiatives, services and resources that support sustainable living.

Environmental Reporter

Use the Environmental Reporter Web Application to help the County track private tree plantings, private rain barrel installations and midges.

Did This Page Help?
Fields marked with * are required.
Page Rating*