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.
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.