Meet Erik Dihle, Baltimore City’s Arborist

Erik Dihle spent 18 years working for the military, landscaping and caring for Arlington Cemetery's trees and horticulture. Hired as Baltimore's City Arborist in 2009, he planted himself in Charm City and dug in. Here it's a much looser landscape, with huge budget constraints.

Snowmagedon, the derecho, the looming emerald ash borer, aging trees in neighborhoods, no trees in neighborhoods--it's a good thing Erik is a guy who likes a challenge. His budget is inching up. Directing the TreeBaltimore program, he strategizes the business of "doubling the tree canopy by 2040," a gauntlet laid down two administrations ago and supported by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who wants to see Baltimore's population rise by 10,000 people. A leafy city is a healthy attractive place to live, and trees are an important way to filter polluted stormwater washing into the Chesapeake Bay.

Dihle at the Forestry Division

Dihle at the Forestry Division

Whether it is the condition of a single tree or the 2.6 million he is responsible for, Erik is always interested, always strategizing. Responding more quickly to neighbor's calls for dead tree removal: Forestry inspectors are on it. Tree-trimming, a victim of budget cuts, nonetheless is necessary  to improve the city's stock of trees as they grow: "A pro-active pilot program of pruning has started soon, with a budget of $150,000.00 for trees under 10-inch caliper, in two or three neighborhoods," Erik is pleased to say.

In further good news, "There will be mitigation for trees that have to come down due to the Redline." And then there is $1.4 million dollars from the Exelon merger to support TreeBaltimore plantings that will boost the tree canopy in Oliver, Greektown, Brooklyn, Pigtown, Station North, Middle East, Butcher's Hill, Ashburton, and other neighborhoods. "For Governor O'Malley's Stream Restoration Challenge,' says Dihle, "we are getting 22 schools and their teachers involved in tree plantings this fall, next spring and next fall."

Erik is employing an intern from UMBC to update information on the city's notable trees. "Maybe we'll come up with an app for Baltimore's Notable Trees." Baltimore, an underplanted, underfunded city, has one considerable asset, he will tell you. "It is that there are all this disparate, different groups, very passionate about  greening the city. I want to bring them together under the big tent of the TreeBaltimore Working Group."

The TreeKeepers certification program, designed and administered by BTT executive director Amanda Cunningham, with a staff drawn from all these very groups, is a prime example of this big tent thinking. Treekeepers is free for citizens and communities who want to transform their neighborhoods and see that their trees thrive. Attend and be qualified--and carry Erik Dihle's signature in your wallet to prove it.

Russ Moss Digs Trees

Russ Moss – TreeKeeper, former chair of the Baltimore City Forest Conservancy District Board – is a dedicated tree lover.  Wherever people are planting trees or learning about them, look for Russ – often with camera in hand. A devoted TreeKeeper, he is optimistic about all the new tree planting. "This comes at a time when the city understands better and better that trees are valuable, that trees boost citizens' health and they contribute to the city's wealth. Oh I'm a 'tree evangelist' from way back; it's in my Georgia blood."

A longtime activist in his Reservoir Hill neighborhood abutting Druid Hill Lake, Russ this spring led the re-planting of the North Avenue median (for the second time in a decade). "In 2004 Maxalea beautifully planted up seven medians between Mt Royal and Madison Avenues," he says. "It was the culmination of work by many partners, and I credit especially Mark Cameron [then of the Neighborhood Design Center] and George Winfield [then head of the Department of Public Works]. The result was a handsome $250,000 project, with a lot of volunteer time put in, that completely transformed  the North Avenue corridor."

Russ  communes with an old tree on his European travels

Russ communes with an old tree on his European travels

When Russ retired from WJZ-TV, where he had covered City Hall for years, Mayor Sheila Dixon thanked him not only for his professional skills, but for his dedication to greening the city, as exemplified by the North Avenue medians project.

Russ sees the recent renovation of the west side median as a complement to the Station North arts revitalization underway  on the east side of I-83, where green infrastructure is being thoughtfully incorporated. "North Avenue is US Route 1, a federal corridor and a highly visible Baltimore city roadway. On the west side too it is gateway to many diverse communities including Reservoir Hill and Bolton Hill, and now, with the new Leake Building open, it is actually MICA's welcome mat. The west side median deserves sustainable attention and re-beautification." And thanks to Russ, and many other determined volunteers, it is green again.