Planting Trees in Columbia to Slow the Flow

Slow the Flow is the name of the Columbia Association’s (CA) program to reduce the volume of stormwater that runs off every surface in Columbia during rain, ice and snow storms. Why does this matter, you ask? Look at the stream near your home, look at the pond or lake the stream flows to and ask yourself how much of your assessment is being spent to dredge the sediment out of that pond or lake. The sediment comes from eroded stream banks and gullies that are caused by runoff as it flows across our yards, parking lots and streets, through the woods and into our streams. “Hasn’t it always done that?” you might ask.

The answer is yes, but there wasn’t as much runoff when Columbia was all woods and farmland. Our houses, roads, parking lots and office buildings — what are generally known as impervious surfaces — have dramatically increased the volume of runoff. The volume has increased because rain water can’t soak into the ground when the ground is covered with asphalt, concrete or other building materials, which is causing our streams to erode, badly in some places.

Through state, county and CA programs we are restoring stream banks to reduce erosion, building facilities to slow the flow of runoff and allow runoff to soak into the ground and planting trees. Yes, I said planting trees. Stream restoration can cost between $300-800 per foot and there are 40-50 miles of streams in Columbia. Think of the cost! The facilities we are building to slow the flow of runoff cost $10-30 per square foot, or approximately $30,000-50,000 each. While we will need to build some of these slow-the-flow facilities, we can also plant trees for $8,000 per acre, and the trees help reduce the volume of runoff. CA has been given a grant by the State of Maryland to plant trees so it costs us very little to do so.

Using sites listed in Columbia’s Watershed Management Plan, CA and community volunteers planted five acres of trees and shrubs in the villages of Oakland Mills and Long Reach last year. The trees are four to six feet in height, shrubs a little smaller, except for larger trees that are on the edges of the plantings facing residences (these trees are 10-15 feet tall). We are planning to plant more trees this year.

Got someplace you think needs a bunch of trees? Give us a shout:

— Written by John McCoy


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