By Emely Miranda
In 1999, Marina Dullnig planted her first tree, a maple, in the city’s Berwyn Park. Dullnig has since planted 40 trees throughout the park, and 38 of them, including her first tree, are still standing.
Earlier this summer, a Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation employee left a card asking Dullnig to contact them about her efforts.
The Arbor Day Foundation provided Dullnig with 10 trees, all of which she planted in April. Dullnig typically plants only a few at a time; she believes the larger number caught the county’s attention. County regulations prohibit individuals from planting vegetation, including trees, on park property without a permit or authorization. Dullnig claims to have been unaware of the rule.
In response to receiving the card, Dullnig called the county’s parks and recreation maintenance coordinator, Shawn Beaumont. During their conversation, Beaumont informed Dullnig that there was an official process in place if someone wanted to plant trees in the park.
“It doesn’t cost park and planning anything if I plant a tree and take care of it,” Dullnig said. “The park is losing trees, but they’re not replanting. They’re not doing that.”
In the past 20 years, the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation planted three trees in the park. Two of the three were damaged and cut down shortly after being planted, and the third tree seems to have stopped growing.
“I guess this is my crusade because we need them. We need oxygen, wildlife habitats and shade,” Dullnig said.
Berwyn residents who live by the park would like to see more trees added to the canopy, which has thinned over the past few years. The July 2022 storm, in particular, reduced the number of trees in the neighborhood.
“The canopy is really important,” said Faith Rodell, who has lived in College Park since 1974. “If they’re planted where they shouldn’t be planted, nature will take care of that, but I don’t think [Dullnig] should have to relocate.”
Ritvik Karnati, who lives in the neighborhood and frequently walks his dog in the park, has seen Dullnig planting and believes that adding more trees to the park is essential.
“I feel like the trees are much needed because it’s mostly barren land … She’s doing it on her time and expenses,” he said.
“No one ever said anything. They were just happy to have trees,” said Victoria MacDonald, a Berwyn resident since 2008. “Usually, [Dullnig] planted one whenever another one died, replacing them. I think this year, because we lost so many trees, she planted more than she usually would, which brought attention.”
“The issue is the coordination between Park and Planning and folks in the community,” said State Sen. James C. Rosapepe, whose home faces the park.
Dullnig met with eight members of the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation on July 28. Several of her supporters turned out for the meeting, which took place at Berwyn Park.
During the meeting, Dullnig spoke about what she does in the park, including picking up trash, removing graffiti and planting trees. She gave a tour of the park, showing where trees used to be and where she had planted new ones.
Kyle Lowe, assistant division chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s natural and historic resources division, and other county representatives noted that some of the trees Dullnig planted were not native and that she had planted them in less-than-ideal locations.
“There’s a list of trees native to our region. It’s good to plant those kinds of trees. They have the chance for survivability … it becomes really important to make sure that if it is non-native tree that it’s not the type that will spread and can cause any issues,” Beaumont said. “From looking at the trees that she had planted, some are in areas, like the drainage swales, where they may not have as good of a chance of surviving.”
Dullnig and a number of residents remain focused on the loss of trees in the park and are concerned that the trees that remain need to be taken care of. Dullnig voiced concerns about the mowing crew that cuts grass in the park, and Beaumont agreed that best practices are important.
“From discussions between management and with the teams, I believe we’re all on the same page now that we need to make sure we slow down and are careful,” he said.
According to county park and planning, because of the large number of trees lost in the past few years there is a plan to replant trees in numerous parks, including Berwyn Park.
“We had a number of large microbursts that came through and really decimated the tree population in our parks in the College Park area … there’s been a partnership between the Natural and Historical Resources Division with our department and the City of College Park to plant about 145 two-inch caliper trees this fall,” Beaumont said.