Newly planted, 12-foot-tall trees provided little relief from the relentless sun during an outdoor news conference at North Point Library Tuesday.

But give those elms, maples and oaks a few years and they will offer shade to the grounds, energy savings to the building and protection to Baltimore County's watershed.

"Planting trees is a simple thing with a lot of benefits," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said. "Of all the strategies that make a difference in our environment, few are as effective as trees."

The library's 19 new trees are among nearly 1,000 the county purchased with a $500,000 federal energy grant and planted this spring at 74 public buildings. Included in the overall cost is a two-year warranty and maintenance agreement.

"This is a fairly inexpensive way to reduce our energy costs and clean up the bay," said Vincent J. Gardina, director of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

The Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County received 69 trees, the most of any site, and the Essex campus accounted for an additional 57. The trees also adorn the grounds of 46 public schools as well as police precincts; senior, health and community centers; fire stations and the Lansdowne Library.

As the trees grow, some could reach heights of 70 feet or more. Their canopies will spread and create more shade. Healthy trees can reduce air and water pollution and trim energy costs.

Within the next 30 years, the county expects a $2 million return on its investment in the form of environmental benefits, officials said. North Point Library's 10 American elms, six northern red oaks and three red maples could, for example, filter nearly 3 million gallons of rainwater in the next several decades.

Geographic information systems technology helped determine the most advantageous spots for planting. The trees, chosen for their hardiness and disease resistance, are planted within 60 feet of the buildings' southern facades to optimize shade.

"In an urban setting, these trees can live 60 years," said Katie Beechem, an environmental projects administrator for the county. "If they are really cared for, maybe a century."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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