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Celebrating 2020: Restoration

Featured image: Volunteers pose with their work at College Manor. Courtesy of Shannon Light

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2020 was full of challenges. Despite the tumultuous year, we still managed to carry on our mission of clean water, strong communities. We planted 557 new trees across Baltimore’s many neighborhoods. We cut 394 new street tree beds and removed 11,000 sq ft of impervious surface. Most importantly, we engaged and collaborated with community leaders and residents on their visions for a cleaner, greener city.

Protecting Our Forests

Forest & Tree Conservation Bill

Blue Water Baltimore plants new trees across all of our local watersheds to improve water quality. But how can we ensure that our young canopy survives to maturity?

Last fall, Baltimore City took a step toward providing stronger protections for forests by unanimously passing Forest & Tree Conservation Bill 20-0546 through City Council! This is a huge win for our local trees as we work toward our collective goal of 40% canopy coverage! To learn more, check out our fact sheet.

This bill is the first of several Forest Conservation updates which are planned to come out of the Baltimore City Tree Ordinance Committee in the coming months and years. Keep an eye out for upcoming legislation and ways to get involved!

Photo: Members of the Tree Ordinance Committee raise a glass to celebrate the passing of the bill under a giant tulip tree in Druid Hill Park this summer. The committee is composed of leaders from Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore Green Space, The Baltimore City Forestry Board, TreeBaltimore, The Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Department of Public Works.

New Green Infrastructure 

Blue Water Baltimore works closely with local faith groups and schools to address stormwater runoff, flooding, and conservation on their properties. 

Stillmeadow Community Fellowship

These RainColumn cisterns capture up to 600 gallons of water from the roof of Stillmeadow Community Fellowship in Southwest Baltimore. Rainwater collection helps create a more climate resilient city by decreasing flooding & overflows during large weather events. Plus, Stillmeadow congregants are now using it for their tree sapling nursery and garden spaces!

“BWB’s 600-gallon cisterns were a vital part of a large and complex community reforestation effort being carried out in a 10-acre forest patch connected to the Stillmeadow church in West Baltimore. Along with partners at the US Forest Service, the University of Delaware’s Environmental Humanities program, and members of the church congregation, BWB has helped create and nurture a tree nursery, watered by the cistern, that is currently growing 1,100 trees to replace hundreds of ash trees decimated by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. The reforestation effort is part of the emerging Stillmeadow Peace Park, which will not only serve to reduce stormwater and increase forest canopy, it will also include meditation gardens, performance spaces, and environmental education opportunities for the West Baltimore community.” – McKay Jenkins, Volunteer and Community Activist


Photo: Our Senior Implementation Coordinator, Corbin, and the rest of our Restoration team do the hands-on installation work.

Watershed Public Charter School

Blue Water Baltimore and The National Wildlife Federation collaborated with leadership of the Watershed Public Charter School and St. Gabriel Church to develop a Watershed Plan for their shared campus in Northwest Baltimore. In October, we planted 54 trees with congregants and families of both institutions.

To kick off the new year, BWB staff returned this January to complete a depavement project of an old basketball court. We have plans to install rainwater cisterns and add a new rain garden on the campus. All of these restoration projects supplement ongoing virtual education programming coordinated by the National Wildlife Federation.

Photo: BWB Restoration Staff remove underutilized impervious surface to improve stormwater management on the campus.


600 New Trees

Like everything else last spring, our tree planting season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the slow months at home, we took our time to develop new safety protocols & procedures and prepare for successful, socially-distant events. Here are a few highlights from our fall season:

Oliver Community Street Tree Planting

Over the past 5 years, Blue Water Baltimore has partnered with Oliver community leaders to plant and care for hundreds of young trees. This fall, we returned to collaborate with The Oliver Action Team, Rebuild Metro, BUILD, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and Neighborhood Design Center on an additional 120 street trees!

Oliver Action Team members knew exactly where they wanted to target tree planting. Their goal was to plant up the gateways into the community along Aiquith, Biddle and E. Preston Streets. They wanted to add larger canopy trees for traffic calming and beautification. We worked together to determine new tree bed locations and then wrote a grant together! The community’s vision was then funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


Photo: Members of the Oliver Action Team doing community outreach prior to our planting.

Even during the early stages of the global pandemic, we managed to engage residents in the project. A gift bag was created with our door hanger, a tree fact sheet designed by residents, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a face mask. 16 residents picked out their trees and 5 opted to not get a tree.

Once plans were decided, we ordered trees & supplies, rallied volunteers and sanitized our tools. Over the course of two weeks, we were able to finish the project.


Photo: Community Leaders Celena (Left) and Adrienne (Right) plant trees in their neighborhood.

Community leaders guide our projects by sharing their priorities and connecting us with other residents.

What makes me most excited about the new trees in Oliver is that they will make Oliver a healthier community by cleaning the air we breathe. They will help decrease the amount of air conditioning that we will have to use in hot summers, and will help calm traffic along our major corridors. The planting that I am most proud of is on the 1200 block of N. Eden Street. On this block resides the Dawson Safe Haven Center, an after school program for kids. The trees will aid in making this block much more beautiful for our children that go to the center. We planted approximately 12 new trees on this block and the trees themselves are some sort of a safe haven themselves.” – Celena, Community Leader and member of the Oliver Action Team

Photo: Oliver Resident Angelique plants a tree near her home.

Photo: New trees going in on the grounds of Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary School

Photo: Volunteers voting for clean water on November 3rd – Election Day!

    Photo: The planting project finished with a tree walk and blessing organized by Knox Presbyterian Church and Interfaith Partners of the Chesapeake.

George Kaplan, along with Adrienne Knight and other members from Knox Presbyterian Church led a ‘blessing of the trees’ after the planting. Reverence for trees and their life sustaining properties holds an important place in the foundations of so many faiths. Following the blessing, participants took a guided walk through the neighborhood to learn about the importance of different species, their impact on stormwater runoff, air quality and shared faith reflections on how trees influence our daily and spiritual life experiences.” – Bonnie Sorak, Senior Outreach Coordinator for Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

Curtis Bay Community Street Tree Planting

After Oliver, we quickly pivoted to the South Baltimore neighborhood of Curtis Bay where we installed more than 100 new street trees.

Photo: A young hawthorn tree ready to be planted near the iconic water tank at the top of the hill in Farring-Baybrook Park.

Rodette Jones is a dedicated community organizer and the Farm Manager of the Filbert Street Community Garden. Earlier this summer, she joined BWB staff to help lead our engagement and outreach efforts prior to planting. While our usual door-knocking protocols were cancelled due to COVID-19, Rodette still flyered hundreds of homes across the community to inform residents that trees were coming and to offer them the opportunity to select their tree species.

I was excited to partner with Blue Water Baltimore to plant trees in my Curtis Bay community. The thought of enhancing nature and helping the environment for cleaner air is crucial for the ecosystem. I encourage everyone to participate in planting events.” – Rodette Jones

Photo: Over 100 volunteers came out to plant over the two-week period, including State Delegate Brooke Lierman!


Photos: Volunteers came out in full force to plant more than 75 trees in one morning!

We were also joined by volunteers from The Baybrook Builders, a workforce development initiative designed to outfit young men and women of the Baybrook communities in South Baltimore with a combination of trainings around basic construction, community beautification, and urban agriculture. These youth will grow up alongside the trees that they planted in their own neighborhood.

The Builders program is dual purpose designed to help eliminate barriers to future employment while helping the youth be a larger part of a community rebuilding process. Since the organization started earlier this summer, the Builders have cleaned local parks and alleys and made meaningful contributions to the City of Refuge Victory Farm, Filbert Street Garden, Bliss Meadows Farm, Strength to Love Farm and Grow Homes home office.” – Mike Dorsey, volunteer and organizer of The Baybrook Builders

Photo: The cute goats at the Filbert Street Garden kept everyone company!

Baltimore County Neighborhood Yard Tree Program

About the Program

Blue Water Baltimore plants trees on residential property across Baltimore County through our cost-share yard tree program. We work closely with local volunteer residents, called Neighborhood Tree Stewards, who to promote it to their neighbors and help them select appropriate species and sites (Right tree, right place!).

The cost-share is a win-win for everyone. Residents are able to pay reduced fees for the trees. (Some communities further reduce the cost-share amount with neighborhood association funds.) It benefits BWB by covering operating costs that grants do not pay for and it helps fund our tree giveaway program. We leverage these funds with MD Dept of Natural Resource (Chesapeake and Atlantic Bays Coastal Trust Fund) and Baltimore County grants.

Photo: A resident in the northwest neighborhood of Sudbrook Park placed these signs in her window to thank volunteer tree planters as they installed trees in her yard in November.

Where We Work

In 2020, we planted 206 trees across more than 10 communities including Aigburth Manor, Anneslie, Harford Park, Knollwood, Lutherville, Rodgers Forge/Gaywood, Southland Hills, Stoneleigh, Sudbrook ,West Towson and Wiltondale! In Lutherville, Neighborhood Tree Stewards connected us to the College Manor Retirement Community. We planted 45 trees on their campus with volunteers and neighbors in October.

Photo: Post planting drone pictures of College Manor Assisted Living, courtesy of Paul Newill-Schamp


We couldn’t do these projects without the vision and dedication of our Tree Stewards. Carol has been planting trees in her North Baltimore neighborhood of Stoneleigh for more than 20 years:

Planting trees has been a wonderful process of getting to know my neighbors, watching trees grow over my lifetime and enjoying the shade and beauty as I walk along the streets. The trees have really helped reduce the summer temperatures in our neighborhood and have encouraged people who like green neighborhoods to move here.

Photo: BWB staff and volunteers ready to dig holes for new trees in Stoneleigh.

West Towson

Wendy, a long-time Tree Steward, has been coordinating the yard tree program in West Towson for 7 years.

We started in 2013 with 13 trees planted! Within 3 years we started to see a big difference in the pollinator population. We have been planning and planting native groves which include canopy and understory trees, which help each other as well as the ecosystem. We encourage homeowners to continue the planting theme with native shrubs and herbies, and we send them to Herring Run Nursery! We also teach them about considering the site and selecting the right trees and about leaving the fallen leaves on the ground for nourishment.
The beautiful Blue Water Baltimore trees seem to sell themselves, and in years 7-8 of our program we advertise on Next Door and spend the spring and summer taking orders and siting trees. Anyone reading this, please drive through our neighborhood and enjoy the 5 to 25 foot native trees along the streets and front yards—thanks to Blue Water Baltimore and our community.  Almost every young tree you will see came from this program. Most of our streets were pretty bare when we started.

Photo: Tree Stewards Barb and Tom plant a tree in West Towson this fall.

Sudbrook Park

Sudbrook Park Tree Steward, Deana, says of the program:

2020 was Sudbrook Park’s fifth year working with Blue Water Baltimore on neighborhood tree plantings. It has become a treasured annual event here and over the years we’ve added more than 100 yard and street trees to the neighborhood, maintaining the character of our community and the health of our tree canopy. Thank you to all the dedicated Blue Water staff and volunteers!”

Photo: Deana plants a tree with her sister this fall.

Many of these county neighborhoods currently have high tree canopy coverage, but big trees are rapidly declining and coming down due to old age and stress resulting from climate change. It is essential that residents plant the next generation now to ensure that our canopy doesn’t diminish.

Photo: Blue Water Baltimore’s Senior Manager of Operations, Darin, plants a young willow oak next to the giant stump of a fallen tree in the Sudbrook Park community of northwest Baltimore. 

We couldn’t do it without you!

A huge shout out to all of our volunteers, community partners, donors, & tree stewards who showed up for clean water in 2020. We can’t do our vital work of water protection without your support!

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