Buffers help clean up rivers, streams

March 08, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Aaron Cook might be new to Washington County this year, but he's no stranger to a popular planting program designed to help clean up streams and rivers in Maryland.

Cook, who is a forester, said that since 2007, the Western Maryland Resource Conservation & Development Council has been working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service to provide the "backyard buffers" program to Washington County residents.

The program is directed toward Washington County landowners who have drainage ditches, streams, creeks or rivers flowing through or adjacent to property lines and who qualify for one free "buffer in a bag," each of which is big enough for a 50-foot section of unprotected waterway.

"Trees and shrubs help stabilize soil and act as crucial buffers by filtering out pollutants," Cook said from his Clear Spring office.


According to the DNR, Washington County's 2,293 miles of streams and rivers do not have adequate vegetation growing along the banks.

For the past two years, the backyard buffers program has distributed around 75 buffers in a bag to local residents each spring.

Many have been repeat customers, said Cook, who worked in Frederick County, Md., before coming to Clear Spring.

"My husband, Robert, learned of it and he first pursued it a few years ago," said Lisa Shimahara of Keedysville.

Buffer trees and shrubs have been planted with some success where their property abuts Little Antietam Creek.

"It's a family affair," she said, noting that she and her husband and daughter, Bailey Waterbury, 15, work together on the annual project.

"It's difficult to get trees established along a stream because view of the water is often a consideration for the homeowner," Cook said.

This year's buffer in a bag includes five each of pin oaks, redbuds, persimmons, winterberry holly and silky dogwoods.

Also included are fact sheets on tree-planting techniques, typical planting arrangement, proper tree maintenance and information about other native plant species suitable for streamside plantings.

A brief application must be submitted before March 31 to be eligible. Those wishing information may contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service in Clear Spring at 301-791-4733 or by sending e-mail to Cook at

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