Creating habitat on industrial lands on Baltimore’s “Second Harbor”

Today was a school days throwback – we went on a field trip. We took a tour of habitat creation projects on industrial sites around Baltimore’s “Second Harbor”.


If you’re from out of town and have visited Baltimore to eat crabs, take in an Orioles game at Camden Yards, or visit the National Aquarium, you’ve visited the Inner Harbor. To the west is where the Patapsco River empties into the Middle Branch; this is Baltimore’s “Second Harbor”. Unlike the Inner Harbor, which is largely commercial, the Middle Branch is fronted by many active and inactive industrial properties.

Under a grant from the US Forest Service Northern Research Station, the Parks and People Foundation and the Wildlife Habitat Council are engaging industrial property owners to undertake habitat restoration projects. Today we toured four project sites.

First was Sherwin-Williams, where Environmental, Health, and Safety Manager Adam Haynos showed us how they removed almost 5,000 sq ft of impervious surface to install native plants.

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Adam then described how, working with the adjacent community, they will be creating a community park at a vacant property across the street.

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Next we visited an Exelon property, the Baltimore Gas & Electric Spring Gardens campus. BGE Principal Environmental Scientist Gregory Kappler showed us where a substation that was decommissioned formerly sat by the Patapsco. When it was demolished, instead of replacing it with turf they installed a native tree planting and pollinator garden in the hundred-foot buffer adjacent to the river.

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Next stop was Baltimore Community ToolBank. This is a really innovative project – they rent tools at cents on the dollar to groups that undertake greening and clean-up projects. They created elevated planters to maximize stormwater capture, planted with native plants (notice downspout-cistern-watering assembly at back of planter).

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We ended at Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center. This Port of Baltimore dredge mitigation site resulted in an urban wildlife refuge that provides water access to the adjacent community where none existed. Lorraine Warnick from the Living Classrooms Foundation told us about their work in the surrounding schools and with students from those schools at the site, and the extensive list of partners including US Fish and Wildlife, NOAA, Maryland Environmental Service, and many others.

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These projects are great examples of how public-private-NGO partnerships and networks can accomplish things that may not otherwise happen. Today provided a networking and learning opportunity between sites. We hope these efforts will grow a practice community of habitat creation and restoration for industrial landowners on Baltimore’s “Second Harbor”, the Middle Branch.