a group of people standing around a table with shovels
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A Year In Review: Restoration 2021

Oh Boy, What A Year! 

As the second year of the pandemic draws to a close, Blue Water Baltimore celebrates the ways in which our community can still come together to achieve our mission of Clean water, Strong communities. We planted over 1,000 trees, removed 11,000 sq feet of impervious surface and gave away over 900 free trees in 2021. 

Our team continues to be inspired by the outpouring of dedicated volunteers, community partners and donors who share our dream of healthy waterways in Baltimore. As we move into this new year, we reflect on the people and stories who make this dream a reality.  

Jump to:

Our Team Grew 

Our restoration crew gained 3 new members this year! We are thrilled to expand our capacity to plant up the city and county with projects that reduce stormwater runoff. 

Photo: Our full Restoration Team, Left to Right: Sean, Patrick, Johno, Darin, Zoe, Corbin and Rob
  • Patrick McMahon (Second from Left) joined the team as our Restoration Project Manager with extensive experience and an environmental background as an adjunct professor at Towson University. 
  • Sean O’Maille (Left) was a full-time yoga teacher prior to becoming our Restoration & Maintenance Coordinator!  
  • Rob Hart (Right), our Restoration Technician, is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability where he obtained his master’s degree with a focus on Environmental Justice. 

Blue Water Baltimore hired 9 new staff members across our organization! To learn more about our full team, visit our website.


Baltimore City Street Tree Projects 

Photo: BWB Staff ready to pass out doorhangers to residents in West Baltimore.

Resident Engagement  

In recent years, we have focused on improving our engagement process to seek increased input from the folks who live in the communities in which we work.  

For street tree plantings, our team first meets with community leaders and neighborhood organizations to discuss their visions for a greener Baltimore. 

Once planting zones are determined, we knock on doors, visiting each home designated to get a new tree. Residents may select their species or opt out of the program if they do not want a tree. Door knocking is great time for our staff to get to know neighbors, have conversations, and incorporate feedback into our plans and process.

Impervious Surface Removal  

Cities are full of impervious surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, rooftops and parking lots. By replacing this ‘grey’ infrastructure with green infrastructure, like trees, we can slow down rushing stormwater. New tree beds reduce flooding, limit sewage overflows and backups, and keep our waterways healthier for both humans and wildlife. 

During the pandemic, some of our engagement work was put on hold to ensure the safety of all, but we still made sure to notify folks ahead of time that ‘Trees Are Coming!” This includes stenciling the sidewalk to show where pavement is going to be removed. We want to give residents as many opportunities as possible to provide comment about tree bed locations before we dig.

Photo: Summer staff members Josh (Second from right), a returning YouthWorker, and Abden (Left), a high school student from New Era Academy in Cherry Hill, assist our team with sidewalk stenciling.

After stenciling, it’s time bring in our machinery. We use a concrete saw to cut the sidewalk and an excavator to break up and haul away tons of concrete. This year, we removed a quarter of an acre of pavement to create 257 new tree beds!


Our Senior Implementation Coordinator, Corbin, works with contractors to cut and remove impervious surface to create new tree beds on Broadway Street. 

East Baltimore Street Trees

Another tree in the ground thanks to our volunteers.

Once tree beds are opened, it’s hole digging season! This year we completed the first two phases of a major tree planting project in Broadway East and South Clifton. We hosted 6 large volunteer events that brought out hundreds of individual volunteers, school groups, TreeKeepers, and multiple corporate groups including Flywheel Digital and Subaru who planted over 300 trees. Thanks to everyone who joined us! 

Our partners include The New Broadway East Community Association, Oliver Action Team, South Clifton Park Improvement Association, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the TreeBaltimore initiative of Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks Forestry Division. 




Bringing the Cherry Trees Back to Cherry Hill 

After Broadway East, we packed up our tools and moved down to Cherry Hill. Blue Water Baltimore first planted trees in this south Baltimore community in 2012 at the local high school, New Era Academy. Over the following decade, we returned over multiple seasons to plant several hundred trees in Reedbird Park, at Harbor Hospital, and along the streets of Cherry Hill Homes.  

Photo: Residents requested that we bring flowering cherry trees back to Cherry Hill!


Photo: We love our partners! Shout out to Malika (Left) who helped with resident engagement. Here she plants a new Hawthorn tree with Twanneshia Thomas (Right) from Black Yield Institute.

Cherry Hill is a vibrant community filled with a variety of organizations doing a lot of good work. Our projects are only possible due to collaborations with local partners including The Cherry Hill Tenant Council, The Cherry Hill Development Corporation (CHDC), and The Cherry Hill Community Coalition. This year, we worked with Malika Jones from the CHDC on door knocking and planting. She brought so much energy to the project!

“I thoroughly enjoyed Cherry Hill’s tree planting event! I truly loved engaging with community members. From canvassing to participating in the actual event, it brought the great work that Blue Water Baltimore has done into perspective. Conversing with community members allowed me to take sneak peek into the lives of Cherry Hill residents. Many residents loved the idea of bringing cherry trees back to Cherry Hill and the fact that they could pick out their tree! Choosing the tree versus having one put in place for you impacts a sense of ownership for the residents. Another unexpected impact was working with the youth and hearing their conversations about the event. They really took pride in the work they’ve done! Great partnership but even better results!!!”

If you have not heard of these Cherry Hill organizations, including the Black Yield Institute and the Youth Resiliency Institute, please look them up, volunteer and donate!

Funding for our planting project was provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Baltimore City Department of Public Works and the TreeBaltimore initiative of Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks Forestry Division. 

Replacement Street Tree Plantings 

Our staff are dedicated to keeping our projects looking good. For the first two summers after planting, we return to each site weekly or bi-weekly to water our trees. We protect them from mowers and deer damage and return after 3-5 years for pruning to ensure they have good form when they reach maturity. 

Photo: Weekly watering 10-20 gallons in the summer months helps young trees survive and thrive!


Due to this commitment to tree maintenance, our survival rate is generally over 90%. Urban trees face increased stressors due to climate change, heat island, compacted soils, air pollution, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic – to name just a few! Occasionally, a few of our trees don’t make it.  

This year, we replaced all of our dead trees across the city neighborhoods of Curtis Bay, Oliver, Mondawmin, Robert W. Coleman, Auchentoroly Terrace and Belair Edison.

Photo: High school students earning some community service hours in Oliver.

Free Trees for All!  

The free tree giveaway program started almost 10 years ago to increase canopy coverage on private property and to inspire residents to be part of the solution. Each spring and fall, we offer a variety of native species ranging from understory flowering and fruiting trees to large canopy trees.  

In 2021, BWB hosted three free tree giveaway events, giving away over 900 trees to residents of Baltimore City and County! This was an enormous success after having to cancel all giveaways in 2020 due to the pandemic. We revamped the program to offer pre-registration and curbside, contact-less pickup in addition to our normal option for walk-ups day-of the event.  

Photo: Residents may take home up to 6 trees for FREE to plant in their yard.

Shout out to our lovely hosts at Stillmeadow Community Fellowship who held two of the events and are doing amazing work in West Baltimore! Visit their website to learn more about their Peace Park and other ongoing greening and sustainability projects. There are plenty of opportunities to get engaged and volunteer with them.

Our giveaways are developed in collaboration with our great partners at the TreeBaltimore initiative of Baltimore City Rec & Parks, The Department of Public Works (DPW) and Baltimore County Environmental Protection and Sustainability. 

Stormwater Infrastructure Projects

Our Restoration Team was also busy this year installing rainwater cisterns, bioretentions and conservation landscaping at several congregations and schools including Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian, The St. Elizabeth School, Knox Presbyterian Church, People’s Community Lutheran Church and the Watershed Public Charter School. 

Photo: This willow oak at Contee Parago Triangle Park has way more breathing room for its roots thanks to our depave project!
These cisterns will collect hundreds of gallons of rainwater from the roof of the Watershed school for use in their new native plant gardens!

Cicada Parada!

While out watering newly planted trees across the city and county in the early summer, we excitedly witnessed the emergence of the 17-year cicadas. Our staff noticed that our brand new trees were already providing necessary habitat. The males sang from their small canopies and the females laid their eggs in the branches. Tiny cicada nymphs hatched 6-8 weeks later and burrowed down into the tree roots for another 17 years. See ya in 2038!!

While we did lose a few trees to the cicada damage, most are recovering nicely and will benefit from routine pruning this winter to remove dead limbs. 

Photo: Female cicadas make slits in tree branches with a dagger-like organ called an ovipositer. They lay 30 eggs per slit, and around 400 eggs total per cicada!

Baltimore County Neighborhood Yard Tree Program  

After weeks of heavy lifting on our city street tree projects, we pivoted to Baltimore County to install almost 350 new trees on private property across 13 different neighborhoods through our cost-share yard tree program.  

Photo: We are immensely grateful to our many community partners, associations, and dedicated Neighborhood Tree Stewards who make the program possible! Not to mention, many thanks to our outstanding volunteers who planted them.


About the Program 

Photo: Staff and volunteers planted 50 trees across Knollwood, Wiltondale and Stoneleigh on December 4th. Photo courtesy of Councilman Marks


Each fall, residents from several Baltimore County neighborhoods can pay reduced fees for trees to be installed in their yards. (Some communities further reduce the cost-share amount with neighborhood association funds or grants.) Our staff work closely with 1-2 volunteer residents from each community, called Neighborhood Tree Stewards, who to promote the program to their neighbors and help them select appropriate species and sites (Remember, right tree, right place!).  

We have been working with some neighborhoods for well over a decade but also added some new communities to the program this year.


Photo: Neighborhood Tree Stewards Beth (Left, Anneslie) and Nancy (Right, Historic East Towson) with a newly planted Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)


Historic East Towson is one of our new neighborhoods this year! Neighborhood Tree Steward Nancy Goldring says of the program: 

What a delight to be a part of the tree planting experience! Thank you to Beth Miller and BWB for the gift of your partnership in increasing East Towson’s tree canopy. It was short-term fun with wonderful long-term results. I can’t wait to see these trees in the next ten to twenty years! It will be well worth the wait!” 

Meet some of the neighbors and see what they planted!  

Check out these stories collected by members of the Green Towson Alliance. Visit their Facebook page for more details.

Photo: David Jones planted a tree to commemorate his beloved wife, Hannah, who passed away in August of 2021. She loved flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) so he planted one. Nick the cat supervised while the tree was being planted. Dogwoods are valuable to many kinds of wildlife including insects, birds, and small mammals. 

Photo: Rachel Rock Palermo’s son, Sam, wanted to be in the photo so he could compare his growth with the growth of this Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) over the next ten years. This 1920’s “street-car suburb” of Baltimore City has small lots that were originally planted with silver maples along the street. As those trees have died, residents are replacing them with new trees and installing their own root barriers as required by Baltimore County to protect their sidewalks. The Swamp white oak is an excellent choice for a street tree because it can tolerate compacted soil, salt, and, despite its name, drought. Oaks have high wildlife value and are particularly excellent hosts for caterpillars. This species of oak attracts Hairstreak butterflies, Duskywing skippers, and numerous moths also feed on the foliage and other parts of oaks. 

Thanks to each Baltimore County resident who ordered a tree and contributed to our goal of 40% canopy coverage. One Lutherville resident purchased over 60 trees for their property! Every tree makes a difference. To learn more about the program and find out how to get involved, contact [email protected]

Believe in a Greener Baltimore 

We are looking forward to another wonderful year of greening up our communities in 2022! Join us!




Photo: A handful of dedicated staff and volunteers planted 24 trees on an October afternoon in Oliver


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