two men in orange vests standing next to a tree

Blue Water Baltimore Completes Route 40 Green Infrastructure Project

As an organization performing the hard but necessary hands-on work of improving water quality, Blue Water Baltimore seeks to be grounded in the local history of our region. Over the past two years, we planted 477 new trees in the median of US-Route 40 between Fulton Avenue and MLK Boulevard. Aptly nicknamed the “Highway to Nowhere,” this six-lane, 1.39 mile freeway has a unique and complicated history. In the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, plans were developed to extend interstate I-70, resulting in partial construction of a highway that cut through west Baltimore neighborhoods including Harlem Park, Poppleton and Franklin Square.

The controversial project displaced over 1,000 residents, most of whom were African American, and created both a literal and figurative scar across these communities. Highway construction was eventually halted in the early 1980’s due to public opposition. Over the past few decades, various proposals have been made to reinvigorate the space. Some projects have been enacted, such as the addition of new parking for the nearby MARC station completed in 2010, but many have never come to fruition, including the construction of the Red Line, a mass transit line.

Since 2017, Blue Water Baltimore and our partners have begun to write a new chapter of this complex history in Baltimore’s western gateway – one of community greening. The Baltimore City Department of Transportation supported our plan to plant trees in the “The Canyon,” and the 7-acre site now will now provide much needed reductions in water and air pollution as well as improved stormwater management from the surrounding impervious surfaces. We hope that this investment in green infrastructure transforms the landscape over time and creates small yet meaningful improvements within west Baltimore neighborhoods.

This project was made possible by support from our dedicated volunteers, partners and funders. The first two phases were planted by over 150 residents through ‘Volunteers Untapped’ as well as other local neighbors and school groups. This November, the third and final phase was completed in collaboration with the Baltimore Tree Trust, which purchased 235 bare root trees and mobilized the Bon Secours Clean and Green Landscaping Team to assist with implementation. To ensure maximum survivability, the trees are watered each summer with the help of students in the Baltimore City YouthWorks program. The funders of the project include the Maryland Port Administration, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Baltimore Gas & Electric. All reforestation efforts by Blue Water Baltimore and the Baltimore Tree Trust performed within Baltimore City are coordinated within the Department of Recreation and Parks’ TreeBaltimore initiative.

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