CUMBERLAND — Multiple grant sources and sponsors have joined together with the city to initiate a pilot program to make a variety of shade trees available to North End property owners at discounted prices or free.
“North End has the highest volume storm water runoff in the city,” said Paul Eriksson, a natural resource specialist for the city and secretary for the City of Cumberland Shade Tree Commission.
The program, which is called “Get Rooted in Cumberland,” will make a wide variety of trees available to homeowners to be planted on their properties.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce runoff,” said Raquel Ketterman, environmental specialist with the city.
“We will see how it goes. If it works we may extend it to other areas of the city,” said Eriksson.
“I had a dogwood tree put on my property,” said Mary Huebner, who lives on Trost Avenue.
Huebner said she wanted the shade and loves to watch the birds that visit them.
Also available is a “Get Rooted Tree Coupon,” which will allow homeowners to have a tree with a value of up to $240 installed on their property by a professional nursery for $30.
The coupon program will be available through Oct. 31.
Under the Community Planting Program unique tree species can be selected to add diversity to Cumberland’s tree canopy, city officials say.
The city also has a limited variety of native trees available for free.
The Chesapeake Bay Trust contributed $34,526 and Maryland Community Legacy added $16,000 in funding for the program. Columbia Gas and Potomac Edison are also sponsoring the Get Rooted program donating $2,200 and $2,000 respectively.
George Franklin of Piedmont Avenue took advantage of the program and had a flowering crabapple tree planted in his front yard.
“They put a flier on my door. I attended a meeting and we got it (the tree) here,” said Franklin.
Franklin, who likes to name his trees, named his new tree “Barb,” after a close friend who passed away.
Eriksson said when trees are lost, you have less water being absorbed. The result is higher runoff levels into Wills Creek and the Potomac River, resulting in increased erosion, flood risk, sediment buildup and increased pressure on the combined sewer overflow system.
The CSO system can be-come overwhelmed during heavy rains, resulting in pressure buildup that is mitigated by releasing sewer affluent into the waterways.
“The state monitors the CSO releases. They can fine us if it is too high,” said Eriksson.
Laura Smith, a LaVale resident and intern with the city who is assisting with the program, spoke about the advantages of the trees.
“The trees can decrease your summer cooling bills. In the winter, when they lose their leaves, they still allow sun through for heat,” said Smith, who is majoring in ethnobotany at Frostburg State University.
FSU is one of only two colleges in the country with a ethnobotany program, which stu-dies the relationship between plants and humans.
“The biggest benefit is beautification. If you walk around you notice people really take care of their yards here,” said Smith.
Huebner said that the people have been invaluable assets in getting the program started.
“Many neighbors in the area are helping to spread the word. Janie Hutcherson has been a big help,” said Huebner.
To find out more on the program visit GetRooted@Allconet.org or phone 301-759-6548 or 301-759-6604.
Greg Larry can be contacted at email@example.com.