Sunday, March 4, 2012

...the Forest for the Trees...

John McCoy, Columbia Association Watershed Manager, is a man with a mission.  He is charged to reduce run-off and he is willing to employ a variety of methods to make it happen. One of those ways is through the planting of trees. Lots of them. The fact that CA can use grant money to pay for these trees is an added incentive.  Many other methods for reducing run-off are costly.

The Village of Oakland Mills has some lovely Open Spaces just perfect for homing a good portion of these free trees.  In some cases, volunteers are willing to do the planting.  It seems like a win-win for Columbia, our environment, and the Chesapeake Bay, doesn't it?  There's just one problem.

That land belongs to the citizens of Columbia (Oakland Mills) and they are using it. Most of the areas designated for tree planting are used in active recreation by families and children. In some cases the lack of trees in a given area provides an openness for walkers on neighborhood paths, a feeling of safety that encourages frequent use. Turn-out for an informational session by Mr. McCoy was surprisingly large. At least, I think it surprised Mr. McCoy.

To be perfectly clear, not everyone there opposed the planting of the trees.  In addition, some suggested other places that they believed would make more sense, and interfere less with the neighborhood. Mr. McCoy, for his part, felt that people didn't have a true appreciation for the adventures their children could have playing in the woods.  Although I didn't say anything at the time, our own family experience with a six year old daughter contracting Lyme Disease meningitis makes the thought of playing in the woods a nightmarish prospect. But I digress.

I don't see anyone as a Bad Guy in this. But I do see a rather simple-minded approach to the plan. To me it comes across like this, "We need to Plant Trees. You have Big Space. Poof--Done!" Mr. McCoy said, rather testily, I thought, "This plan was done by an environmentalist, not a landscape architect." What seemed to elude him was: a clear understanding of the neighborhood, the history of agreements made concerning the space, and a real knowledge of how this land is being used today.

As far as I am concerned, no plan concerning the planting of these trees could be successful in the absence of all three. Mr.McCoy is an intelligent man. If, in fact, he does possess this knowledge, he needs to do a much better job of showing it to the stakeholders. If CA is us, then these are the folks he needs to be working with, and not just talking at, as we move forward.

The meeting was an excellent start. I look forward to a more collaborative future.



  1. Hickory Ridge ran into the same problem when CA suggested planting trees on the ONLY parcel available at our village center for community uses such as meeting space, athletic facilities, or a gathering space. I believe there was also a problem with a site in Hopewell. When the Watershed Plan was done, I don't think anyone bothered to think that some parcels might already have a better use. I don't know that various entities at CA ever talk to each other or to the villages before making decisions that affect all of us.

    1. @Joan--Thank you so much for sharing that information. It's good to know we are not alone. An improvement in communication on the issue would be extremely helpful.

  2. Julia - very nicely said, athough "not everyone there opposed" is rather generous. I recall one gentleman strongly in favor, one or two others ambivalent or slightly in favor, and everyone else speaking opposed, usually strongly. And John stated it was the largest turnout for this sort of meeting he had seen. I've never seen my daughters or any other childern play in the wooded area overgrown with bush and vine in the north east corner of the area in consideration. I don't think they have money to fully clean that (possibly invasive) stuff out, including the woods across the path next to the stream (they do just want to identify and cheaply plant open land, it's straight from the state playbook), not to mention maintain it, and I'd guess it would spread through the new trees eventually. Soccer, lacorse, frisbee, and kites would be out in any case. Years ago, probably when the used to go down to the stream, one of my daughters developed the bulls eye rash - I'm very thankful my wife knew enough to get her to the doctor and on an antibiotic. As you point out, to the residents, particularly those like me adjacent to the grass, this is much more than open land available for planting, it is a place for kids, a nice view, more light for the house, a distance from the bugs and animals in the forested areas, and for passers-by a nice open vista and a feeling of safety. I am heartened that in addition to running accross your post I also found OMCAMinutes_Final_Nov_22_11.pdf which as I'm sure you know says "Mr. McCoy is definitely willing to compromise and particularly if there is a majority opposition to a specific site." Hopefully they wont do this to us when we are quite opposed.

    1. @Neal--Thanks for your comments. I do try to be generous. I believe that the majority view was not to oppose the planting of trees per se, but an objection to the locations suggested. Would that be a fair assessment in your view?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.