Volunteers from neighborhoods all over Towson helped to clean up 2,857 pounds of trash from tributaries of the Herring Run and Roland Run this spring as part of Project Clean Stream for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Every year, Green Towson Alliance organizes these cleanups in Towson, and this year, nine cleanups were held in April.
Some unusual items pulled out of streams include a street sign, a wet vac, a lampshade, a skateboard ramp, a tire from a wheelbarrow, and a dollar bill.
One of the cleanups concentrated on removing invasive plants from the area around the stream in their neighborhood; many volunteers taking part on the cleanups couldn’t pass by invasive plants like garlic mustard, which is easy to spot and pull, and can be found just about everywhere in the spring in Maryland.
Students from Towson University participated in five of the cleanups, as part of the yearly TU “big event” on April 30, in which students go into neighborhoods to help with community projects.
Since its inception in 2015, Green Towson Alliance volunteers have cleaned out nearly 16 tons of trash from local streams through these annual stream clean-ups. One big change is that we no longer find Styrofoam; its use as carryout containers was banned in Maryland in October, 2020. GTA member Lauren Stranahan coordinated this year’s stream clean-ups.
2022 was a banner year for Green Towson Alliance. We are pleased to have met many of our goals including planting trees in downtown Towson, helping community associations successfully plant native canopy trees in their neighborhoods, and cleaning trash out of our local streams that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
Here’s what we accomplished in the past year:
In partnership with Blue Water Baltimore, GTA helped to coordinate the planting of more than 285 trees in Towson communities in the fall of 2022. Tree stewards worked with their neighborhoods to choose the right native tree for their yard or as a street tree. The vast majority of these trees are canopy shade trees which can grow at least 60 feet tall and provide much greater environmental benefits than the smaller, understory species.
MORE TREES! DOWNTOWN TOWSON TREE REPLACEMENT
72 trees were planted by Baltimore County in downtown Towson in December. GTA volunteers advocated for years for the replacement of trees that had died or been removed.The County has created a Street Tree Replacement Program that will add 1,300 trees in six concentrated areas. We are delighted that Towson is one of those areas that will benefit from this critical green infrastructure.
SAVING TREES AND OPEN SPACE
GTA volunteers worked with the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (DEPS), the communities, and the developer of the Villas at Woodbrook (on the site of Villa Maria nursing home for the Sisters of Mercy on Bellona Avenue) to provide more open space, and to save a few more large specimen trees.
In partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, GTA organized 216 volunteers to pull 4,570 pounds of trash out of neighborhood streams in the spring of 2022. In many cases, volunteers also pulled invasive plants out of stream beds and the surrounding areas.
ADVOCACY FOR NATIVE TREES AND LOCAL PARKS
Green Towson Alliance testified at the Baltimore County Fiscal Year 2023 Budget hearing, asking the county to increase funding in the following areas:
Expand and maintain the shade tree canopy throughout the County to reduce flooding and excessive heat impacts due to climate change, as well as improve air quality and habitat for native birds and insects. The County’s Street Tree Replacement Program is a great investment toward this request.
Fund additional forestry positions in the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (DEPS). Three additional forestry positions were created in the budget including an urban forester who is administering the Street Tree Replacement Program.
Fund a canopy tree inventory by DEPS using GIS, based on the Downtown Towson Tree Survey created by the Green Towson Alliance and plant trees downtown. DEPS is tracking the Street Tree Replacement program with a GIS program.
Fund a position in the Department of Recreation and Parks to administer a volunteer “weed warrior” program, like programs in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, that will organize and manage volunteer efforts for habitat restoration, particularly for removal of invasive vines that are slowly destroying our existing trees. We will continue to advocate for this.
Create a county-wide open space plan similar to the NeighborSpace of Baltimore County initiative. We will continue to advocate for this.
INVASIVE PLANTS INITIATIVES
Green Towson Alliance volunteers have continued to remove invasive vines and plants from the Blakehurst Retirement Community property, in Radebaugh Park and Overlook Park. In parks, GTA members from nearby neighborhoods are working in coordination with the Towson Rec Council of Baltimore County Rec and Parks to remove invasive plants (Overlook Park) and plant pollinator-friendly native perennials (Radebaugh Park entrance gardens at 11 Maryland Ave).
The effects of the invasive plant removal in Overlook Park were striking:
Beneficial native plants in Overlook Park got a boost in 2022 from the dedicated volunteers of Habitat Stewards of Overlook Park (HSOP.) Habitat was restored by manually removing (without power tools or herbicides) non-native invasive plants (NNIs) that outcompete and smother natives. In addition to freeing dozens of trees from English Ivy, the group’s methodical removal of aggressive non-native Porcelain Berry vines near the athletic field and stream gave a variety of native plants access to the air, water, and sunlight they need. It was exciting to observe so many natives unexpectedly rise up, phoenix-like, as if they had been just waiting for their chance. These native plants include: Blue-eyed Grass, Blue Flag Iris, Boxelder, Black Raspberry, Common Milkweed, Daisy Fleabane, Dogbane, Horse Chestnut, Pignut Hickory, Red Chokeberry, Tall White Beardtongue, and Virginia Creeper. Beneficial native insects seen utilizing these plants include butterflies such as Azures, Eastern-tailed Blues, Monarchs, Common Sootywing and Silver-spotted Skippers, Brown-belted Bumble Bees, Red Milkweed Beetles, and Orange Assassin Bugs. Birds seen include Red-shouldered Hawks, Pileated Woodpeckers, Gray Catbirds, Carolina Wrens, and many others.
The work at Overlook Park will begin again this month. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact Adreon Hubbard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Invasive plant removal at Blakehurst Retirement Community is ongoing as well. Volunteers worked through the early spring of 2022 and then paused during the summer while a professional environmental service company removed large areas of Porcelain Berry and other invasive species. Blakehurst is working with Baltimore County to re-forest at least some of these areas.
NATIVE PLANTS INITIATIVES
GTA engaged in several public education efforts to inform our neighbors about the vital link native plants and trees play in supporting our environment. This includes the Towson Native Garden Contest, which we have run for the past two years; an educational display at the Stoneleigh Elementary School Environmental Fair, the Church of the Redeemer Native Plant Sale and the Towson Gardens Day. We also arranged a tour of the green roof and rain gardens at Patriot Plaza and the Towson Fire Station which utilized native plants. We marched in the Towson 4th of July Parade promoting “Nature’s Communities” of native plants and the bees and butterflies they host.
More information on native plants and the upcoming 2023 Native Garden Contest can be found at nativegardencontest.com
GTA signed on as supporters of the Road to Freedom Trail, a proposed multi-purpose trail linking Hampton Plantation to Historic East Towson. The trail is conceived as an educational, environmental, and historical trail for walking and cycling that will tell the story of the relationship between the 500 enslaved people at the Ridgely estate and the enclave of those who were manumitted after 1829 and created a community nearby in Towson.
GTA advocated for the passage of several bills in the Maryland General Assembly. The following bills passed:
HB15/SB7 Invasive and Native Plants expands the list of invasive species regulated in Maryland. It also requires state agencies and projects with state funding to prioritize the use of native plants. – PASSED
HB275 George “Walter” Taylor Act prohibits the use, manufacture or sale of fire-fighting foams, carpets and food containers that contain PFAS after January 2023. PFAS are Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances which are a type of human made ‘forever chemical’ and a known carcinogen. – PASSED
SB541 Great Maryland Outdoors Act Provides historic investment in Maryland’s state park system. It funds new full-time positions in the Maryland Park Service to deal with park overcrowding, addresses a long maintenance backlog, restores historic sites, fixes aging infrastructure, and acquires new parkland. It also has provisions to improve the equity of access to our state parks. – PASSED
SB0528 Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022 This comprehensive climate bill requires the state to cut emissions 60% below 2006 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 by addressing emissions from the transportation, building, and electricity sectors. It also promotes equity in the allocation of climate funding. – PASSED
The following bills did not get voted out of their House/Senate Committees:
HB59/SB783 Constitutional Amendment for Environmental Human Rights guaranteeing each person in the State of Maryland the right to a healthful environment.
HB0135 Environment – Single-Use Plastics – Restrictions to prohibit a food service business from providing certain single-use plastic food and beverage products to a customer unless the customer asks for them. The majority of these items are not recyclable and they often end up in our streams and rivers.
HB0376 Outdoor Preschool License Pilot Program – Establishment to establish the Outdoor Preschool License Pilot Program in the Maryland State Department of Education to license outdoor, nature-based early learning and child care programs in order to expand access to affordable, high-quality early learning programs and to investigate the benefits of outdoor, nature-based classrooms.
198 volunteers from neighborhoods all over Towson helped to clean up 4,300 pounds of trash from tributaries of the Herring Run stream in March and April. Green Towson Alliance organized the cleanups as part of Project Clean Stream for the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Neighbors know first-hand about the trash they see in their neighborhood streams, and many of them volunteered to help clean it up. Some of the trash is accidentally or purposely thrown into stream beds, but much of it is washed from roads or sidewalks into streams during a heavy rain. If it’s not taken out, the trash will make its way down our rivers to the Chesapeake Bay.
Several terrific crews of Towson University students, who were taking part in University’s The Big Event, were bussed by the University to several clean-up sites.
In Radebaugh Park, the students cleaned out trash from the stream and then helped neighbors chop out a wall of invasive ivy from their alley.
In Wiltondale, volunteers picked up trash, and pulled out lots of invasive garlic mustard from the banks surrounding the Herring Run stream.
In Knollwood as part of a two-day cleanup of the stream in the proposed Six Bridge Trail project, volunteers worked through a downpour, and some of them wore waders so they could clean the stream completely. Items pulled out of the stream included pipes, wood, and grocery carts.
In all, Green Towson Alliance organized twelve stream clean-ups in March and April. Over the past six years, stream cleanups organized by the Green Towson Alliance have removed more than 17 tons of trash from tributaries of the Herring Run.