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Community gardening group branches out with urban forest program

The Baltimore Sun
June 4, 2015

The birds were chirping and the trees stood tall as Miriam Avins went walking in a patch of urban woods.

Located between a CVS Pharmacy and the Govans-Boundary Parish United Methodist Church on southbound York Road, the woods didn't look like much: dotted with poison ivy, invasive English ivy, trash and a campsite near a concrete pipe, where a man, possibly homeless, appears to lay his head at night.

But Avins, founder and executive director of Baltimore Green Space, said the patch of woods, once a vacant lot, looks a lot better than it did in 2012, when her nonprofit organization, then best known for promoting community gardening, also began taking an interest in reclaiming and preserving urban wooded areas around the city.

In Govans, "It was just all ivy," Avins said. "There was all kinds of trash."

And no birds.

Area residents, students and others, including volunteers from Baltimore Green Space, the York Road Partnership and Loyola University Maryland's York Road Initiative, have since cleared pathways and pulled up much of the ivy that covered the trees. They gave the woods a name, Govans Urban Forest, and refer to it by its acronym, GUF. Friends School students made a wooden roadside sign on posts planted on the embankment above the sidewalk. It announces the patch, about three-quarters of an acre, as "a protected urban forest."