TreeBaltimore serves as the umbrella organization for all City agencies and private organizations in their effort to increase the tree canopy of Baltimore.
TreeBaltimore strives to increase the urban tree canopy through the establishment, management and preservation of trees. To reach our goal of 40% tree canopy cover by 2037, we partner with individual homeowners as well as communities, schools, and businesses. TreeBaltimore is a mayoral initiative led by the Baltimore City of Recreation and Parks in partnership with Blue Water Baltimore, the Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore Tree Trust and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
When we drive or walk along a tree-lined street and then travel down a street with few or no trees, there is a huge difference! Beyond looking good, trees protect and enhance city dwellers’ health and property. Trees literally clean the air by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. They reduce rain-water runoff and erosion, thus improving the Bay’s water quality.
Trees temper climate; they save energy; they can improve health, serve as screens, and strengthen communities. Trees can even help contribute to a community’s economy and improve our way of life—and provide habitat for wildlife we might otherwise not see in our urban environment.
The term tree canopy refers to the part of the city that is shaded by trees. From a bird’s-eye view, the tree leaves and branches covering the ground is our tree canopy.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service measured Baltimore’s existing tree canopy at 27.4 percent. American Forests, the nation’s oldest non-profit citizens’ conservation organization, recommends a 40 percent tree canopy for healthy cities.
Baltimore has 43 percent hard surfaces—streets, buildings and parking lots—and 19 percent grassland (potential land to be planted). Some of the most available planting places are found on the front and back lawns of rowhouse neighborhoods. They can also be found on large institution properties such as colleges, schools, hospitals and industrial areas.
Baltimore has 2.8 million trees. If we lost all our trees, it would cost $3.4 BILLION to replace them. This does not take into account the services our trees provide, such as cleaning our air and water, improving our health, and increasing our property values.
Current value of services provided by Baltimore’s trees:
- $3.3 million a year in energy savings by shading buildings from the summer sun and blocking winter winds.
- $10.7 million a year storing 527 tons of carbon. Carbon dioxide greatly increases to the greenhouse effect.
- $3.8 million a year by removing 700 metric tons of air pollution (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.)
- $1.6 million a year by removing 244 metric tons of ozone. Ground level ozone is the main ingredient in smog and a leading contributing factor of asthma.
Over the life of a single tree, it is not unreasonable to conclude that $57,000 in economic and environmental benefits is provided.
In the summer of 2007, the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Forestry Division organized a sample survey of the city’s street trees. Around 100 volunteers participated in training and surveying. Listed below are some of the facts we discovered:
- Baltimore has approximately 100,000 street trees or one street tree for every six residents;
- Most of the trees sampled (68 percent) were located in residential neighborhoods and over half of those were in rowhouse communities;
- The street tree population includes 95 different tree species;
- The three most dominant species are silver maple (12 percent), linden (10) and Norway maple (9). Generally, maples, which also include sugar and red maples, are overrepresented in our street tree population;
- Over half of the environmental values are provided by seven species (based on tree structure and abundance): red maple, linden, Norway maple, London plane, green ash, sugar maple, and silver maple;
- Young trees are underrepresented in the distribution by age (trees are most vulnerable during the first few years of their life).
- About 1,665 of the total population (2 percent) are dead trees with most of the dead trees still young.
- The newest Baltimore City Street Tree Species List.
The Tree Benefit Calculator allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits individual street-side trees provide. This tool is based on i-Tree’s street tree assessment tool called STRATUM. With inputs of location, species and tree size, users will get an understanding of the environmental and economic value trees provide on an annual basis.
- Residential: Baltimore rowhouses and single-family homes make up a significant portion of the city’s land. Grassy front and backyards are great places to plant new trees. Studies show that trees surrounding homes can reduce utility bills and increase property values;
- Vacant Lots: Throughout Baltimore city, there are many vacant lots. Some have been adopted by the neighborhoods and made into vibrant gardens. Planting trees in and around gardens is called urban agroforestry. Planting trees in empty lots can indicate that someone cares;
- New Construction: One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower the impact of construction and improve the environment is to plant trees. Trees slow down water runoff, reduce topsoil erosion and prevent harmful pollutants contained in the soil from getting into our waterways;
- Apartments: Renters have more opportunities to plant and care for trees than they realize. When tenants express interest in helping care for trees, building owners are often willing to invest in planting. The City provides free street trees for empty pits/strips and private lawn areas;
- Parks: Baltimore City Recreation and Parks controls over almost 6,000 acres of parkland. With the help of neighbors and friends of parks groups, we host volunteer workdays to plant and maintain trees in our parks and remove invasive vines that threaten our native trees. Be sure to check out our Weed Warrior program;
- Medians and Streets: Baltimore has approximately 100,000 trees planted in the right-of-way, along our streets. Tree-lined streets can enhance traffic calming and reduce noise pollution. Baltimore’s trees remove 701 metric tons of pollutants per year, saving almost $4 million annually. Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective ways to clean our air;
- Parking Lots: Although most parking lots are impervious surfaces such as asphalt, some are green-friendly. These help prevent polluted water from running-off into our streams. Other lots are built with retention systems that help filter out pollutants before then enter the Bay. Medians in parking lots are great places for trees!
- Business Districts: Trees enhance economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists. People linger and shop longer in business districts with tree-lined streets. Whether planted along sidewalks, on lawn areas or on green rooftops, trees benefit business districts;
- Hospitals: As centers for healing, hospitals, clinics and community health facilities have an extra incentive to be as comfortable as possible. Trees help grow our urban forest and make healthier, more livable communities. Importantly, studies show that trees can expedite recovery time;
- Public School Yards: Baltimore has over 200 public schools. Many have large open lawns that are perfect for tree planting. Some schools have unused asphalt surfaces which can be removed and then planted. From rain gardens to lush tree canopy, schools are perfect places to plant and care for trees;
- Places of Worship: Faith-based organizations own significant amounts of land throughout Baltimore city. Landowners may order discount trees to green up their property. Trees calm and recharge us in our busy lives. They contribute toward creating relaxing, healthy spaces. Trees provide a sense of tranquility that can help us to calm and be still.
- Industrial Areas: Baltimore’s industrial areas have open tracts of land that can be planted with trees. Also, asphalt can be removed and trees planted. The addition of new trees will improve water quality by absorbing and cleaning runoff. The leaves of trees filter the air by removing dust and absorbing carbon dioxide;
- College Campuses: Universities own significant amounts of land throughout Baltimore. These large landowners may order discount trees to green up their property. Trees help to cool the city by acting as a natural air-conditioner;
- Libraries: Baltimore’s public buildings are often bordered by public open space. Trees can be incorporated into areas surrounding our 19 public libraries, as well as museums and other open spaces. Large native trees such as oaks and maples, and smaller flowering trees like redbud, shade and beautify buildings.