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Headline Forum focuses on College Park’s tree canopy

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Posted on: December 1, 2020

By Alexandra Radovic

 

Something about this summer didn’t feel the same to Robinne Gray. Songbirds didn’t flock to the feeders surrounding her home in Berwyn Heights. The tall trees that had attracted her to the neighborhood, in the first place, began to disappear. 

 

“Over the past couple of years a few of our neighbors have removed large trees from their yards,” Gray said.

 

“This summer and fall, we’ve noticed fewer birds at our feeders, and wondered if the reduced tree canopy could be the reason. … As they eventually die off, the neighborhood looks more barren and plain,” she said. “Large trees are a benefit to the whole community, for beauty and for other reasons,” she continued. “Cutting them down should not be taken lightly. … We need better public awareness and appreciation of the importance of trees.”

 

Jim Meyer, a College Park resident and a member of the city’s Tree & Landscape Board (TLB), shares Gray’s concerns about the importance of sustaining trees. 

 

“I think that landlords currently have a significant incentive to cut down trees as a way of reducing property maintenance,” Meyer explained. “If the status quo continues, eventually the city will be pretty bare, [which] will reduce the amount of heat, air pollution and noise absorbed by trees, and increase the amounts experienced by residents.”

 

He said the University of Maryland would like to remove 14 of the 18 trees on the golf course.  

 

“It would make the golf course obsolete in a few years and open to further development,” Meyer said. 

 

According to a survey Meyer participated in, just shy of 58% of the city’s residents think tree loss is a problem.

 

After Pepco  was bought by the giant conglomerate Excellon, the utility company accelerated its tree pruning and removal work in the area.  

 

“I went out with the dogs one day and found four crews working,” Meyer said. “So I used Nextdoor under ’trees’ and asked ‘what is happening’ and ‘can we stop them from clear cutting College Park?’”

 

Meyer said that outraged neighbors held an emergency meeting which led to a temporary halt in cutting. The same meeting prompted Meyer to join the TLB.

 

The Urban Tree Canopy Forum, hosted by the TLB, debated the same issue at a virtual meeting on Nov. 18. 

 

“Our proposal to protect our city’s tree canopy is really only one part of the larger picture,” Rashawna Alfred, chair of the Tree and Landscape Board, said during the meeting. “In order to make a change and restore [the canopy], it’s going to take a coordinated effort between residents, home owners and developers, along with city government, county government and state officials.” 

 

The goal of the Urban Forest Protection Plan, proposed by the TLB, is to preserve trees that are large, mature and healthy, and to encourage residents to replace trees that have been removed. Residents can qualify for up to $250 in reimbursements each year for tree replacement. 

 

The board’s proposed plan focuses on large trees on private property. During the forum, members of the board recommended that permits be required before trees could be removed, and proposed fining people who have trees removed without first obtaining a permit. 

 

The city council will review the board’s recommendations in coming weeks.

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