For the past 15 years, Joanna Pi-Sunyer has recruited fellow peninsula residents to plant new trees along neighborhood streets, adding much-needed green and shade to our urban lives. On Saturday, Nov. 21, the latest “SoBo Green” campaign added 14 new trees to the central part of the peninsula, bringing the total planted to nearly 200 since the all-volunteer effort started in 2004.
Over a dozen volunteers gathered on Saturday morning to tackle the job, deploying with shovels and rakes to Randall, Fort, Jackson, William, Riverside, and Covington streets where tree pits had been prepped for new occupants. Volunteers dug out the pits, fertilized and mulched the soil, planted and staked trees, and gave them a good watering.
The “SoBo Fall Tree Up,” sponsored by the Federal Hill South Neighborhood Association, capped months of planning with the city, a tree service contractor, and neighbors for this annual rite of fall and, usually, spring. The spring planting was skipped this year due to COVID-19.
A lot of behind-the-scenes coordination has to happen before trees get into the ground, Joanna explains. She works with the city’s TreeBaltimore program to take down dead trees and deliver new trees. Grants from the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership provide funds for compost and a contractor to grind stumps left in the pits. She needs to identify a resident living near the target tree pit who agrees to care for the new arrival. (This caretaker waters the new tree regularly during its first two long, hot Baltimore summers.) And when it’s time to Tree Up, tools are rented from the Baltimore Tool Bank.
Joanna, who lives on Battery Avenue and works on sustainability and environmental education for Baltimore City Schools, spearheaded this year’s planning with help from Jackson Fisher and Scott Huot from the Riverside area. Over the years, Joanna has worked with many volunteers in the long-running tree planting program including Michael Costa of Riverside who started SoBo Green. She has managed to keep it running with regular plantings even as her collaborators have moved out of the neighborhood.
Hopefully the program will expand next year, Joanna believes. She has had conversations with Federal Hill Main Street and the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association to grow into those areas of the peninsula as early as the spring.
If you’d like to help keep SoBo green and work with Joanna to maintain and expand the program, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.