When Gene DeSantis, age 16, planted his first tree in 1977 down at the new Inner Harbor, he discovered a lifelong passion. In the thirty-some years since then, Gene has planted maples and flowering cherries in parks, oaks and zelkovas on barren streets, becoming Baltimore’s best known tree-planting volunteer. And at the end of each event, he would pull out a little book and write down the ever-growing total of trees planted.
In the fall of 2012, Gene arrived at Jefferson Street in the McElderry Park neighborhood just north of Patterson Park. “Hey, Gene!” called out other longtime volunteers. Everyone was there to help the residents and the Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT) turn a stark street green. Gene grabbed a shovel, joined a group of students from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and began to dig. At the end of the sunny morning, Gene announced that he was about to plant his 14,000 tree! So we insisted he pose for this momentous occasion.
On Friday, April 11 of this year, Gene showed up for the kick-off of the Tree Trust's 3rd year of tree planting in McElderry Park. He has now planted 14,228 trees!
Mark Reutter of the Baltimore Brew encountered Gene when the Parks & People Foundation was planting trees near Reutter's house. In this Brew profile, we learn that DeSantis is a man with a very big heart who has devoted his life to volunteering and service.
Keep an eye out for Gene wherever you see volunteers planting trees!