Baltimore’s old-growth forest land needs your support

Photo courtesy of The Cultural Landscape Foundation.

At long last, a vital physical asset to our health and well-being in this city is proposed for protection and conservation.

City council member Kristerfer Burnett is readying legislation that would save from destruction or bulldozing for public or private development 842 acres of old-growth forest in Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, one of the largest urban forests in our region. That’s most of the 1,000+ acreage that comprises Baltimore’s largest park.

Because of its environmental importance as a forest, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park has been referred to as “the lungs of the city.” Old-growth trees capture and store significantly more carbon than even mature trees do. They must be protected from logging and errant utility infrastructure planning. The park needs to be maintained for a thriving level of biodiversity.

This park has suffered significant damage from gray infrastructure planning (human-engineered facilities such as detention basins and underground concrete pipelines cutting through forested land to convey captured stormwater to a local water body), designed and installed at the least financial cost but with hefty cost to the forest’s health. Enlightened agencies are employing green infrastructure strategies in place of gray infrastructure.

I hope you’ll agree with me that a city ordinance like this draft, which quantifiably protects this important ecosystem of forested acreage, is imperative. I respectfully call for letters of support for this ordinance from you, your business or organization and friends who understand and accept responsibility for what’s at stake globally by acting locally.

Please send letters, titled something like “Old-Growth Forest Protection at Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park,” to Councilman Burnett. Please send a copy to the principal advocating organization, Parks and People. Also copy our Councilman Eric Costello.

Once passed into law, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park will qualify for and be added to the national Old-Growth Forest Network, becoming its single largest network forest.

Thank you for your time and effort. Then, breathe easier.

– Dick Williams is a Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional and a Bolton Hill resident.