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Parents who have shared the Dr. Seuss story The Lorax with their children are familiar with what happens when all the trees are cut down…..  We in Howard County are beginning to experience the same fate.  It seems that the stripping of all trees from school and park playgrounds is now a recognized health hazard!  It is not enough that HoCo distributes hats and sun lotion to protect children from the sun, now we must build ‘shade structures’.

Structures are scheduled to be built in four parks for a total cost of $190,000. With funding coming from the HoCo Health Department’s budget, this is clearly a medical emergency of sorts. If only we’d consider this possibility years ago and retained or planted trees…….

HoCo prides itself on its “greenness.” It makes quite an effort to have facilities to teach children about the value of trees. But there seems to be a disconnect between ‘the teaching’ and ‘the doing’.

I’d like to share my letter to the editor which appeared in the December 14 issue of the HC Times and the Columbia Flier.


Protecting children from overexposure to the sun while on playgrounds is indeed a laudable notion. But the erection of ‘shade structures’ as detailed in December 7’s Canopies coming to four county parks to limit sun exposure has me pondering. Is this just another manifestation of Howard County’s obsession with the built environment?

Is our Recreation and Parks Department overlooking TREES as a naturally occurring, sustainable means of providing shade? Granted, a newly planted tree does not provide much shade immediately–all the more reason to leave some well-established trees when developing parks and playgrounds.

It is disheartening when residential and commercial developers strip and flatten the land and do minimal replanting with landscape species. However, when the county sets that poor example by doing the same when it develops parks, schools, and government facilities, it really sets a bad example. State statistics show Howard County has one of the worst reputations in Maryland regarding forest retention. Between 2002 and 2010 we lost 2,367 acres of forest with accelerated development since.

Reforestation efforts on playgrounds CAN succeed if children and maintenance crews are educated to protect and value trees.


If you’d like to join with other HoCo residents interested in protecting our forests and parks—before both are lost to development– please consider visiting my new Facebook group:   Protect Howard County Woods & Parks (STOPTHESWAP)  and meet me on the high road,