By Mike Schuh

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — There is a movement in East Baltimore to use plants and trees to build a stronger community.

As Mike Schuh reports, foundations are giving their money to see if it works.

Can a tree make a difference?  Look around in Baltimore.  Generally, failing or ailing neighborhoods don’t have many trees…or any.  Sheltering the good neighborhoods? A canopy of green.  So on this rainy day, a church basement in Patterson Park serves as the focal point for an experiment.  Neighbors are going block by block to get as many trees and green roofs as they can planted in their neighborhood.

“No neighborhood has created a comprehensive green master plan in the city that we’re aware of,” said Robbyn Lewis.

Simply put, green is good.

“It mattered to me, because coming in, the area was blighted.  There was petty crime, prostitution,” said Grant Heslin.

In short, not a great place for kids.  But Heslin had an idea and the city agreed.  He and some neighbors leased an alley and filled it with trees and green.  His idea is now part of a workshop and could lead to more green-gated alleys.

“But a lot of people, they want someone else, they want the city to do the work,” Heslin said.  “It was clear that it needed community action.  The things that have transformed this community is the residents saying we want change.”

The size of their tree canopy is up by 20 percent.  Seeds of Success, which has brought in $65,000 from foundations, wants to do even more. 

“We have a lower tree canopy than Phoenix, Ariz.  That is not OK,” Lewis said.  “So that’s our goal: to help the city meet its targets and create a better place to live.”

Their goal is to plant 300 trees within the next five years.

Comments (6)
  1. Anon says:

    This is a very interesting idea. I’m curious to see how both a greener aura and a more active community will affect crime rates and residents’ outlooks. Does anyone know any contact information for this group?

  2. Joni Chenoweth says:

    This is a great idea, one which many other cities would benefit from. Baltimore is lucky to have people like Robbyn Lewis and Grant Heslin who care about their community.

  3. Grant Heslin says:

    I am very happy to see that the great work of the Patterson Park Community is drawing attention, and I’m proud to be a participant in the (ongoing) process. I wish to clarify that the Alley Gating and Greening project behind the unit blocks of N. Glover and N. Luzerne was not my idea, as the news piece suggests. I’m not sure who first thought of it, but I’m certain that it was truly a community effort, from start to finish. When my wife and I arrived in the neighborhood in 2004, this idea was already brewing, thanks to folks like Patti & Justin Fortner, Howard & Marianne Katz, Jeri Arnold & Pierre Gibbons, John & Debbie Larwood, Joe & Robin Stocks, Tara Labosky, Suzie Coronel, Jim Kraft, David & Nina Noble, and Vanessa Milio. Many others joined the cause — Kate Herrod, Loretta Colvin, Sean Dalenberg, the Heslins — to name a few. The Patterson Park Community Development Corporation, Friends of Patterson Park, Patterson Park Neighborhood Association, Banner Neighborhoods, and the Baltimore Community Foundation were all instrumental in their support, as well. So, the project was a success thanks to many good people. I think we are fortunate to live in a community that is being revitalized by its very own residents; people with vision, commitment, and a strong sense of stewardship. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this a great place to live, and a special thanks to Robbyn for leading this new greening campaign.

  4. Pat Williams says:

    I don’t live in that part of the city— I live in Ellicott City. But I think planting trees over there are a great idea. It makes one feel more secure and happy to have a canopy of green and gives one a sense of belonging. They are also very inviting and will help bring neighbors together by bringing them outside more to enjoy their beauty and shade. Just something special about Mother Nature and LIFE. I know for a fact that people reach out to neighborhoods that have greenery. Our neighborhood, in particular, is a wooded everywhere and sought out when people are searching for a new home. They give a sense of permanence, care and stability as well.

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