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Group Wants To Use Trees To Build Stronger Baltimore Community

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- There is a movement in East Baltimore to use plants and trees to build a stronger community.

As Mike Schuh reports, foundations are giving their money to see if it works.

Can a tree make a difference?  Look around in Baltimore.  Generally, failing or ailing neighborhoods don't have many trees...or any.  Sheltering the good neighborhoods? A canopy of green.  So on this rainy day, a church basement in Patterson Park serves as the focal point for an experiment.  Neighbors are going block by block to get as many trees and green roofs as they can planted in their neighborhood.

"No neighborhood has created a comprehensive green master plan in the city that we're aware of," said Robbyn Lewis.

Simply put, green is good.

"It mattered to me, because coming in, the area was blighted.  There was petty crime, prostitution," said Grant Heslin.

In short, not a great place for kids.  But Heslin had an idea and the city agreed.  He and some neighbors leased an alley and filled it with trees and green.  His idea is now part of a workshop and could lead to more green-gated alleys.

"But a lot of people, they want someone else, they want the city to do the work," Heslin said.  "It was clear that it needed community action.  The things that have transformed this community is the residents saying we want change."

The size of their tree canopy is up by 20 percent.  Seeds of Success, which has brought in $65,000 from foundations, wants to do even more. 

"We have a lower tree canopy than Phoenix, Ariz.  That is not OK," Lewis said.  "So that's our goal: to help the city meet its targets and create a better place to live."

Their goal is to plant 300 trees within the next five years.

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