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Thurmontís Green Team

Hillary Rothrock

(4/3) We owe so much to our trees. They labor tirelessly day and night 365 days a year for not only us but also the local flora and fauna. They provide us with the air we breathe. They shade us from the heat. A pair of cinch straps and a hammock can even transform a pair of trees into the perfect place for a lazy afternoon nap. We spend much of our lives under their canopy and every April we celebrate all the ways in which trees enrich our lives.

The community of Thurmont knows the value of their trees. A recent arboreal survey found that the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive Asian beetle that has been decimating Ash trees all over Maryland, has infected 245 of the 276 Ash trees in Thurmont. Many of these trees are decades old. The largest in our park has a 56-inch diameter, thatís a little over four feet! If we multiply the diameter of the tree by the average growth factor of Ash trees, 4, we find that this tree is approximately 224 years old. That puts its birth shortly after the birth of our Nation.

The majority of the trees in the park are approximately 19" in diameter, making them on average around 76 years old. Fifty or so relatively healthy Ash trees are being actively treated by professionals to prevent further damage and in hopes of saving them. However, according to Colleen Kenny of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Forest Service during her recent presentation "Emerald Ash Borer: Biology, Impacts, and Management" at the Thurmont Public Library, within the next five years they too could potentially be infected by the insect.

Obviously, the loss of so many long-standing trees in such a small area has affected the canopy and health of surrounding plants and animals. The Thurmont Green Team, in collaboration with the Thurmont municipal staff, is dedicated to creating a sustainable community including stewardship of the local plants and animals. Last year, the team created a wildflower area adjacent to the railroad on a well-traveled thoroughfare, Woodside Avenue. This area now provides food and habitat for birds and butterflies migrating, as well as a scenic view and decrease in toxic herbicides typically sprayed on the area that washes into the waterway. Their hard work helped the town of Thurmont to obtain their Sustainable Maryland community certification from the Maryland Municipal League this past fall. Their next big goal is transforming Thurmont into a Tree City USA community, one of only 42 in the State.

Tree City USA is a product of the National Arbor Day Foundationís nationwide initiative to increase community spending on and celebration of our native trees. Not only does this protect the canopy for future generations, it provides a planned date and time to discuss environmental stewardship with the youth. There are four standards communities have to meet in order to apply and be considered as a Tree City USA certified town. First, the town has to create a designated tree board and staff responsible for the well being of the trees within the town. Second, they must create a town ordinance providing the public with guidance for the planting, maintenance, use, and even removal of trees within town limits. Third, they must develop an annual forestry budget of at least $2 per capita. Lastly, commit to an annual community Arbor Day ceremony and gathering.

This past fall, the Green Team along with the municipal staff and community volunteers planted 25 trees throughout the Thurmont Community Park. This spring the volunteers are excited to work together with local groups and families again to plant another 50 trees during the Thurmont Arbor Day celebration. They would love to have friends of all ages join in on April 22nd at the Thurmont Community Park from 8:30am until noon.

Join the National Arbor Day Foundation for just $10 and you can receive 10 native trees to plant or donate to the Green Team to be planted and cared for by local volunteers. If you suspect you have an Ash tree on your property, you should contact a local arborist to check the tree for infestation and suggestions on whether to treat or remove the tree. For more information about events or about the Green Team, email ThurmontGreenTeam@gmail.com or follow them on Facebook www.facebook.com/thurmontgreenteam.

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