It may feel chilly (or downright cold!) outside today, and you may find it hard to imagine yourself enjoying the outdoors, but only a month ago the sun was shining on a group of volunteers who were just delighted to be out planting new trees in the Barclay neighborhood. Telesis Corporation, along with a multitude of community partners, led a tree planting in Calvert Street Park on November 13. Annie Jamieson, a project manager with Telesis, was kind enough to send us some thoughts on her experience planting trees in Barclay.
What is your positionwith Telesis? Can you briefly describe Telesis’relationship with the Barclay neighborhood?
I’ve been a project manager at Telesis Corporation for the past year. In addition to Baltimore, I’m working on affordable housing projects in Pittsburgh, PA and Newark, NJ.
In January 2006, Telesis was selected by Baltimore Housing and members of the community to lead the revitalization effort for the Barclay/Old Goucher neighborhood. Since then, Telesis has participated in an extensive planning process with community residents, neighborhood organizations, local developers, social service providers, city officials, local foundations, and potential funding partners. Telesis’ vision for Barclay is a stable, healthy, safe, equitable, and livable neighborhood with quality open spaces, community facilities, and employment opportunities.
In June 2010, we began construction on the first phase of the redevelopment plan. This phase includes 72 rental units, eight of which overlook Calvert Street Park; and 30-35 homeownership units, the first 20 of which are directly adjacent to or just to the north of the park.
Why was this tree planting important to Telesis?
Beginning in 2006, the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) and Landscape Architect Liling Tien of Pela Design worked with community residents and groups to create a landscape design for Calvert Street Park. The park is a focal point in the neighborhood and offers an exceptional opportunity to realize many of our redevelopment goals while creating a beautiful environment for residents.
While Telesis is, at its core, a housing developer, we believe a successful and stable community includes not only housing, but beautiful streetscapes and places for residents to enjoy the outdoors. Utilizing the NDC design to plant trees in the park and nearby street tree pits was a simple way to make a great impact in the neighborhood.
Planting new trees not only increases the neighborhood’s tree canopy, but aids in storm-water management, creates a healthier living environment, provides opportunities for local residents to get involved, and answers the community’s desire to improve the park.
How many trees did you plant, and where? Who participated?
We planted a total of 39 native trees in Calvert Street Park and empty street pits in the blocks surrounding the park.
In addition to planting new trees, neighborhood children planted 60 bulbs in the park with the help of our landscape architect, Sharon Bradley. Our contractor, Southway Builders, Inc. also donated their time and removed three invasive shrubs in the park.
Besides just planting trees, what do you think you accomplished this weekend?
While it’s clear that the new trees make Barclay more beautiful, what is most important is that the community was involved. While Telesis and our partners continue to revitalize this neighborhood, small accomplishments along the way, like planting trees, signify progress and growth and let the community see firsthand how their neighborhood is transforming.
In an urban environment, where most children do not have regular access to back yards and playing fields, it was wonderful to see children outside using shovels and wheelbarrows on a beautiful fall day. Neighborhood children learned the difference between soil and mulch, how to plant daffodil bulbs, and helped to dig holes for trees they can watch grow over the years.
Street trees were planted and quickly watered by eager residents who filled up buckets from their kitchens. Residents promised to water and look after the new trees on their blocks. One store owner came out of his café, extremely happy that new trees would soon grace his sidewalk, and thanked us and agreed to water the trees.
The simple “thank yous” and promises to care for the trees brought the neighborhood together and fostered a sense of community pride.
What did you feel best about at the end of the day?
At the end of the day, I felt best about the fact that the children from this urban community got to experience planting a tree. Standing on top of the mulch pile, shovel in hand, one child said, “My mom is going to be so proud of me. I’ve never planted a tree and I’ve never done community service before.” The children finished the day with dirty hands and jeans and learned all about trees—why their roots need room to grow, why we needed to add compost and why mulch should not touch the tree trunk. It was great to know that we had exposed the children to something new that they could return to and take pride in after many years.
How much time had you spent in Barclay before the tree planting? Did you learn anything new about the neighborhood while you were planting trees this weekend?
My time in the Barclay neighborhood was pretty limited before the tree planting. I worked for Telesis from 2006-2007 and took part in the first community design meeting. That was a powerful event because the community really had the chance to think about how they could have a voice in the neighborhood transformation. Now that I’m back at Telesis, I’ve been to the neighborhood to photograph our properties and attend our groundbreaking ceremony this past June.
It’s always good to be in the neighborhood—it’s a very welcoming place!