Natural Resources & Park Rangers

The Natural Resources Division provides sound, cost effective management of environmental resources. This is accomplished by developing and implementing management plans, regulations, and outreach programs designed to preserve and protect Howard County's natural resources to further their public utilization and enjoyment. For more information, call 410-313-1679. 

Park Rangers

Mission Statement 

To enhance the experiences of our park patrons by providing quality customer service and information related to park safety, amenities, resources, and regulations while protecting the environment. 

Safety & Reporting

Title 19 Parkland Rules and Regulations

Be a good witness, if you see something, say something!

  • In case of an emergency, dial 911.
  • Park Ranger Duty Phone (7am-10:30pm): 410-245-1410
  • 24/7 DIRT Tip line: 410-313-3478
  • "Tell HoCo" mobile application

Trail and Boater Safety
Securing Valuables 

Staying Safe in our Parks
Remember to limit your distractions, paying attention to where you are and who is around you at all times. Bring a friend or a dog if you plan to recreate on a secluded route and only visit parks during regular operating hours (sunrise to sunset). Make sure you have proper footwear and apparel, water, and any other supplies you may need. If recreating alone, tell someone where you are going and when you should be home.
Lost and Found Children


How do I rent a pavilion or field?
To make a rental inquiry, call Recreation & Parks headquarters at 410-313-4700. You can also click here to reserve a pavilion online. 

How do I register for a camp, program, or event?
You can register online by clicking here (an online account is required and may take up to 48 hours to approve). You may also register by phone by calling 410-313-7275 (Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm) or via mail to:
Howard County Recreation & Parks
7120 Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21046

What is HCRP’s policy on drone use in parks?
We ask that you to respect the privacy of others by keeping your drone away from crowds of people, sporting events, or activities with children. Please keep in mind that it is against parkland regulations to interfere with or harass wildlife and other patrons. 

Why can’t I feed wildlife? 
Feeding wildlife is problematic for many reasons. Animals that become accustomed to handouts from humans can develop unsafe or aggressive behaviors towards people or other animals. Animals that are regularly fed by people may harass park visitors or be struck by vehicles. “People food” given to wildlife has little to no nutritional value to the animals and may result in serious diseases from malnutrition. Lastly, animals that rely on handouts may lose the ability to forage and starve to death during times of year when people and natural food sources are scarcer in parks.

What should you do in the case of a thunderstorm?
Please evacuate the area and head to the closest building or enclosed vehicle. Remember, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors”. Do not resume outdoor activities until 30 minutes after until you’ve heard the last roar of thunder. 

Where is the best location for fishing in Howard County Parks?
Centennial Park is home to Centennial Lake, which contains many local freshwater fish species such as brown trout, blue gill, large mouth bass, and others. Other fishing opportunities include Savage Park and the Savage Mill Trail, which are located along the Little Patuxent River.

Do dogs have to be on a leash and are there any dog parks in Howard County Recreation and Parks facilities? 
The only off-leash dog area is the Worthington Dog Park. In all other parks and facilities, you must keep your dog on a leash and follow the Title 19 rules and regulations while visiting our Parks.

Information Resources

Howard County Police Department
File an online report, check out community programs and opportunities, and get the latest news and updates for crimes and emergencies in Howard County:

Howard County Fire and Rescue
Learn about fire safety tips, ways to connect, and events in your community:

Howard County Department of Natural Resources
See rules and regulations, fish stocking and hunting schedules, recent news, state park maps, and upcoming events:
Contact Maryland DNR Natural Resources Police for emergency of assistance, 24 hours a day: 1-800-628-9944 or 410-260-8888.

Howard County Recreation & Parks
Learn about events, registration, news and programs:

Park Ranger Logo
Park Watch

What is Park Watch?
An initiative to improve park and visitor safety, increase public ownership of parks, and deter and reduce crime through the combined efforts of trained, passive volunteers, Howard County Park Rangers, and the Howard County Police Department. Park Watch asks patrons to be the “eyes and ears” of their communities in order to fight crime and keep their public spaces safe.

How Does it Work?
Residents know their local parks the best and are able to identify suspicious activities or unsafe situations. A concerned community can reduce crime simply by reporting activity to the police and park rangers. Park Watch is an initiative that teaches citizens personal safety techniques and works to reduce crime, making our parks safer for everyone.

Howard County Rangers offer park safety training to the community, covering common concerns within the parks system, local issues in crime, parkland regulation, and how to keep yourself safe while enjoying parks (including tips for children and seniors, what to look for, and how to safely report concerns). Trainings will be offered throughout the year at the North Laurel, Roger Carter, and Gary J. Arthur Community Centers, and at the Robinson Nature Center. Communities can also request this training. 

Interested in Joining Park Watch?
Consider contributing to the safety of your community by becoming a Park Watch volunteer! Interested individuals can sign up through the HoCo volunteer webpage (  
Volunteers must be 18 years or older and pass a background check. Park Watch volunteers are involved citizens who patrol our parks on the lookout for vandalism, park damage or potentially suspicious activity.
Contact us to schedule an educational training for yourself or for your community group.  
Natural Resources Division: 410-313-1679
Email: [email protected]

Park Watch Logo clear
Forest Conservation Inspection & Enforcement

The Natural Resources Division of the Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks performs all inspections and enforcement of post-development forest conservation easements in Howard County. With the passing of the Howard County Forest Conservation Act in 1993, development regulations now require consideration of forest resources and the creation of forest conservation easements during most development projects. Inspections staff within the Natural Resources Division verify forest conservation easements are in compliance with project-specific requirements during the development phase and enforce restrictions on certain types of activities and land use within easements after development is complete.  For further information, please refer to the links below or email Scott Bowen or call 410-313-3723 to discuss any questions or to report a possible violation of the Howard County Forest Conservation Act.  

Please contact Brenda Luber for information regarding the submittal and review process for forest conservation and landscaping plans or to schedule an inspection of a forest conservation or landscaping project.

The Creation and Granting of Easements
Developers enter into a Forest Conservation Agreement (Agreement) with the County stating they will abide by the regulations established under the Howard County FCA and provide the necessary amount of forest conservation for a specific development project. By the time a final plan for a development project has been approved by the County the developer has provided a Plat of Forest Conservation Easement (Plat), a Forest Conservation Plan (FCP), and a Deed of Forest Conservation Easement (Deed). Plats are basically maps detailing the location and boundaries of easements within Howard County. FCP’s specify whether forest retention or planting is to be provided within specific easements, what species and sizes of trees are to be planted, and what protections are to be provided to the easements before, during, and after development. Deeds describe areas dedicated to forest conservation, in addition to Plats, and grant to the County forest conservation easements to be protected and maintained in perpetuity.

The Need for Inspections
Following a period of developer self-certification during the 1990’s the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) determined it was necessary to inspect forest conservation projects to guarantee compliance. In 2001 DPZ granted the Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) the responsibility of inspecting easements and enforcing FCA regulations. In 2008 DPZ granted DRP the responsibility of inspecting landscaping projects as well. Now Agreements permit DRP staff to access easement areas to complete forest conservation inspections and to investigate possible violations of the Howard County FCA. DRP staff members are directed by County planners within DPZ when to inspect specific forest conservation projects. The costs of inspections are funded through fees paid by developers to the County. Investigations of possible FCA violations are initiated by reports from concerned citizens, through the use of aerial photography or Geographical Information System (GIS) maps, and as a result of County personnel discovering a possible violation during the completion of their day-to-day activities.

Recommendations for Project Success

  1. Request an extension from DPZ if a project is incomplete.

  2. Verify the installation and replacement of forest conservation signs prior to scheduled inspections.

  3. Educate the local community of forest conservation objectives and regulations. It is best to respond to small problems before they become big problems.

  4. Routinely monitor easements to assess tree survival and identify site-specific stressors. Planting the right trees for a site will cost less than repeatedly replacing the wrong trees. A developer may need to revise an FCP to deal with a problem.

  5. Numerous invasive species thrive in Howard County and are capable of overtaking existing and planted trees. Once again, routine monitoring and management can prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem.

Natural Resource & Compliance Outreach

Natural Resource Compliance, Public Outreach and Open Space Acceptance
The Natural Resource office conducts tasks related to natural resource compliance, public outreach and open space acceptance. They respond and follow up on all complaints and inquiries related to natural resource issues on County owned Open Space. Issues include: evaluating hazardous trees; enforcing regulations such as encroachments, i.e., fences, sheds and other structures; and investigating the illegal clearing of parkland. The staff also attends public meetings and informative sessions to relay the Department’s mission in managing Open Space and other Natural Resources lands. This includes disseminating and explaining Parkland Rules and Regulations. For more information on these topics or to report a natural resource violation email Charlie Peregoy or call 410-313-1678.

What is Open Space? 
Open space refers to land that have been set aside through the development process as conservation areas and are deeded over to the County by the developer of a subdivision. You will find open space areas in nearly every community in the County built after the 1970's. The land usually contains environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, woodlands, meadows, riparian areas, etc. The conservation of such areas is important because they lessen the impact of development, provide critical wildlife habitat and are often part of natural greenways that are crucial in today’s fragmented environment. The Department currently manages over 3,300 acres of such land.

Why Can't I Alter or Use the Open Space Behind My Home?
These open space areas are public lands and not intended for the personal use of adjoining property owners nor to serve as lawns, storage areas, gardens or playgrounds. Their purpose is for environmental protection and conservation. 

Open Space Violation








Regulation Enforcement 
The enforcement of regulations consists of issuing warning notices and civil citations to gain compliance. However, the Department’s approach is to try and gain voluntary compliance through education and restoration versus issuance of citations and fines. The final component of this unit is to conduct inspections and provide expertise and site analysis for lands being considered for ownership by the County. This includes Open Space dedication as well as properties being purchased in fee simple. These inspections insure that the lands coming to County ownership are in a safe, clean condition.

Bark Rangers

The purpose of the Bark Ranger Program is to encourage dog owner patrons to clean up after their pets and to use a leash while visiting a Howard County park. Dog feces that is not picked up is unsightly but also has negative impacts on our ground and surface water and attracts rodents. It is important to keep your dog on a leash. Not only is it the law but it is being considerate to the other park patrons.

We encourage you and your pooch to take the pledge to be committed to protecting our environment.
My Human and I care about our environment and the safety of others around us. We pledge to do our "doodie" and clean up after ourselves. I will remain on my leash by my Human's side at all times.

For questions regarding the Bark Ranger program call 410-245-1410 for dates and events.

Deer Management

Howard County is experiencing an overabundance of white-tailed deer. As a steward of the county’s natural resources, the Department of Recreation & Parks has been conducting a deer Sharpshooting Operation Program to reduce the deer population in some parks and open space. This takes place when the herds have become so overstocked that they pose a serious threat to the forest community in which they dwell and have negatively impacted the community by damaging landscaping and crops, increasing the number of deer-auto collisions, and spreading the potential for exposure to Lyme disease. 

The department will be posting “Notice of Sharpshooting” signs at strategic locations two weeks prior to conducting deer Sharpshooting Operations to remind residents of our presence. Signs will be removed after the conclusion of all operations. 

Please be aware that the department has been conducting this program successfully and safely since 2004. Qualified, highly trained, and experienced members of the department will be entering the sites on the proposed dates listed below, in a program that has received special approval from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The deer Sharpshooting Operations will tentatively take place only on days between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., and there are no weekend dates for operations. All sharpshooters are in designated locations approved by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and are in elevated positions, so all shots are directed toward the ground.

Proposed 2023 dates for the deer sharpshooting operations include:

Centennial Park

  • February 1
  • February 15 

Blandair Regional Park (North)

  • February 2
  • March 23

Belmont Manor & Historic Park

  • February 8
  • March 1
  • March 22

Savage Park

  • February 9
  • February 28

Alpha Ridge Landfill

  • February 14
  • March 8
  • March 29

Dorsey Hall Open Space

  • February 16
  • March 7
  • March 9

Robinson Nature Center

  • February 21
  • March 28

Rockburn Branch Park

  • February 22
  • March 15

Zirn Property

  • February 23
  • March 14
  • March 21

The parks will be closed to other users until noon. If you have any questions about the department’s Deer Management Program, please call 410-313-1675.

Living with Beaver

The beaver (Castor canadenis) is an important mammal to Maryland, as well as to North America, from both a historical economic perspective and from an aesthetic perspective. Although excessive harvesting and unrestrained habitat destruction extirpated the beaver in Maryland by the early 1800s, reintroduction efforts have enabled the beaver to return to much of their former range. Their populations have grown steadily and occur in every county in the state and in every watershed in Howard County.


Beaver in Howard County
Beaver can be among the most beneficial of the county’s wildlife. They create favorable habitat for a variety of wildlife species including fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. This variety of wildlife is in turn valued for recreational, scientific, educational and aesthetic purposes. Beaver activity is also helpful in retaining storm water runoff and improves water quality by trapping sediment, nutrients, and pollutants. Beaver activity can also cause flooding of roads, trails, forest land. They also consume trees and shrubs. Their impacts often occur suddenly and dramatically.

These benefits and detriments often occur simultaneously at a single location. Because of the varying degrees of tolerance levels among people to beaver activity, there are bound to be disagreements on how best to “deal” with beaver conflicts.

The Departments' Role
In its role as a steward of Howard County’s natural resources (Howard County Code Title 19, subtitle 2, Section 19.200-211), it shall be a goal of the Department of Recreation & Parks to practice an attitude of acceptance of, and tolerance for, beaver activity as part of the county’s natural environment and it will foster this attitude among the public through education.

The Department recognizes beaver as a natural and desirable component of the environment because of their contribution to the quality and diversity of natural habitat.

However, it is also recognized that conflicts between beaver and humans arise when beaver activity impacts public health and safety, private property, or public infrastructure.


  • The beaver is the largest rodent in North America. An adult can weigh between 30-60 lbs. and measure 25-31" in length.

  • Beavers are nocturnal which means they are most active at night.

  • Beavers are social animals and live in family units called colonies that can range in size from two to eight individuals.

  • Beavers are monogamous and mate in January and February. Four months later 2-5 one pound “kits” are born.

  • Beavers are herbivores. Their diet in the winter is comprised mainly of the bark of hardwood trees and shrubs such as willow, birch, maple, yellow-poplar, cherry, and alder. In warmer months they also consume aquatic plants, rhizomes of water lilies, sedges, grasses, ferns, and the leaves and twigs of trees.

  • The beaver greatly impacts its environment. It is one of the few mammals, other than man, capable of modifying habitat to suit its needs. They instinctively build dams and lodges from any available materials such as tree branches, mud, and stone.


Conflict Resolution
Beaver activity emanating from county-owned property and resulting in conflict will be evaluated by the Department of Recreation and Parks Natural Resource Division for the existence of, or potential of:

  • impact to public health and safety

  • impact to private property

  • impact to public infrastructure

  • impact to public parks and facilities

The significance of these impacts will determine the type of management action taken. Any action taken will be based on proven wildlife management techniques, appropriate animal welfare concerns, and applicable laws and regulations.

It is important to remember that one function of county parks and open space lands is to provide habitat for wildlife. These areas are one of the few places left in the county where wildlife can live. In most cases, damage done to trees on county-owned lands is accepted as part of having beavers.

Damage Prevention and Control
Exclusion involves fencing small critical areas such as culverts, drains, or other areas, and individual trees. A low, sturdy fence, three feet high, can keep a beaver out of an area. When fencing around an individual tree, a simple fence 3-4 feet high made of heavy wire mesh can prevent damage. The fence should be approximately eight to 10 inches from the plant and can be supported by driving metal rods into the ground.

Cultural methods and habitat modification include the elimination food sources such as trees and other woody vegetation and harassment of beaver by repeatedly destroying dams and removing food caches, or installing a pond leveler which regulates the water level of the beaver pond. These methods are not always practical in every situation and have varying success rates. Permits may be required.

Trapping of all wildlife is regulated by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. State law provides for a legal winter trapping season for beaver on private and state-owned lands. State law also provides for regulated trapping outside the normal season; however, a permit must be secured from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. State law also requires that captured beaver be destroyed by euthanasia and not relocated. Wildlife Cooperators are available to assist private landowners in dealing with nuisance beavers. These individuals are certified by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and able to handle nuisance wildlife situations. It is illegal to trap beaver on county-owned lands, unless permission has been granted by the Appointing Authority.

Useful Contacts
Brenda Belensky, Howard County Recreation and Parks
Natural Resource Manager: 410-313-4724

Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife and Heritage Division: 410-836-4557 or 301-258-7308

U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS - Wildlife Service
Nuisance Wildlife Information Line: 1-877-463-6497

Environmental Education Series
The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged - the stewardship of the land.

Please Don't Feed the Waterfowl

Regular feeding can cause:

  • dependency on people for food

  • bird/people conflicts

  • spread of disease

Over the centuries waterfowl have developed patterns of seeking out and feeding on highly nutritious marsh and grassland plants. These feeding patterns are then passed on to succeeding generations. Survival of waterfowl ultimately depends upon the ability to make sufficient use of food and habitat.

In northern regions of the United States, extreme cold and snow cover severely reduces the quality and quantity of marsh and grassland plants. Thus, each year most waterfowl, like many other birds, migrate long distances in search of food and habitat to carry them through the winter. In spring they again migrate, this time returning to their northern breeding grounds.

Not all waterfowl, however, complete the migration cycle. In Howard County, there are increasing amounts of resident Canada geese. Although resident Canada geese look similar to the migratory geese, they are different. It is thought that many resident Canada geese are descendants from races of nonmigratory Canada geese that were released in Maryland by private individuals or released as decoy flocks during the 1930's.

Many urban environments provide sufficient space and food for small populations of waterfowl. Small ponds, community parks with lakes, reservoirs and golf courses provide ideal habitat. However, the added attraction of human handouts can result in the concentration of hundreds or thousands of waterfowl. These wild birds then become quite "tame," lose their fear of people and pick up habits that conflict with humans.

Lack of the fear of cars or planes can cause traffic problems as birds casually stroll or sit in the middle of roadways or fly across airport runways. Large numbers of birds in parks, golf courses, residential lawns and agricultural fields graze, trample vegetation, and produce large amounts of defecation. One goose can produce one pound of droppings per day! Excess nutrients, caused by waterfowl droppings, in ponds and lakes may result in water quality problems such as increased harmful bacteria and algal blooms.

Food handouts often lead to large numbers of birds competing for limited food in small areas. Such crowding and competition for food combined with the stresses of less nutritious food and harsh weather increases their susceptibility to life threatening diseases like avian cholera, duck plague and avian botulism. These diseases have the potential to kill off large numbers of waterfowl.

The result of the seemingly kind and generous act of feeding waterfowl can be a continuing cycle of the birds becoming nuisances and being subjected to diseases. An infected bird may spread the disease to many other birds by infecting the water supply. When the birds are scattered over a large area, this does not pose a serious problem. However, when the birds are bunched close together their chances of contracting disease increase and the result may be disastrous.

If you care for waterfowl, there are things you can do to help them retain their wildness and maintain their well-being:

  • Stop feeding them! They don't understand the problem . . . you do.

  • Learn more about waterfowl by visiting a library, nature center, state wildlife management area, or National Refuge, then teach others what you know.

  • Allow waterfowl to stay wild . . . observe and appreciate them from a distance.

Environmental Education Series
The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged . . . the stewardship of the land.

For additional information, or to become involved in our program, please call 410-313-4700.

Purple Loosestrife Alert!

What is Purple Loosestrife?
Lythrum salicaria is an introduced, hard, aggressive perennial that occurs predominately in wetland habitats. Originally from Europe, it was inadvertently introduced to the U.S. in the 1800's in ship ballast water and intentionally as a medicinal herb. It can now be found in 40 of the lower 48 states and Canada.




  • 2-7 feet tall

  • Flowers on spike, attached closely to stem

  • 5-6 petals per flower

  • Opposite leaf arrangement

  • Stiff, four-sided stem

  • Blooms July-early Sept.

  • A single mature plant can produce up to 2.5 million seeds per year.

Why is Purple Loosestrife a Threat?
Wetlands are the most biologically diverse and productive components of our ecosystems in Maryland. Productive wetlands are the backbone support for a healthy Chesapeake Bay. Hundreds of species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, and amphibians rely on healthy wetland habitat for their survival.

Once this plant becomes established, it rapidly degrades wetland habitat by out-competing beneficial native vegetation. If left unchecked, purple loosestrife forms vast monotypic stands that will dominate an area and provide very little if any habitat for wildlife.

An estimated 190,000 hectares of wetlands, marshes, pastures, and riparian meadows are affected in North America each year. This has an economic impact of millions of dollars. Purple loosestrife is classified as a noxious weed in 19 states; however, it is not considered so in Maryland at this time.

What you can do to help!
Because purple loosestrife is so widespread in the U.S., its total eradication is unlikely. However, the spread of purple loosestrife can be halted and newly invaded areas can be controlled.

Prevention is the best way to stop the purple loosestrife invasion.

  • Don't plant purple loosestrife in your garden! Even Lythrum varieties advertised not to make seeds can cross-breed with the invading loosestrife to make seeds.

  • Be on the look out for pioneering plants or isolated small colonies. Notify the proper authorities. If they occur on your own property, remove the plants or cut off the flower heads, bag and destroy them. Repeat throughout the flowering season mid-June, July - early August before seeds are set.

  • Rinse equipment, gear, or clothing and footwear used in infested areas before moving to un-infested areas.

Control Methods
Any control method you select should be repeated for several years to catch missed plants and those established from seed. Purple loosestrife seeds remain alive in the soil for many years.

By Hand (for small clusters)
Pull young plants, bag and destroy all materials. Dig older plants and remove all the roots. Any remaining will sprout new shoots. Be careful to avoid excessive soil disturbance. If this is unavoidable, consider chemical methods.

By Herbicide (on larger populations)
As with any herbicide, extreme care must be taken to ensure the control of loosestrife and minimize damage to desirable vegetation. It is best to call the Cooperative Extension for up-to-date information on the herbicides recommended for loosestrife control and all precautions that need to followed when using herbicides.

Biological Control (in the future)
Refers to the use of natural "enemies" or agents such as parasites, predators, or pathogens to control plant populations. In the past ten years, much research has been conducted to find selected insects that feed specifically on purple loosestrife as a means to naturally control the spread of the plant. Back in the 1800's when purple loosestrife was introduced to this country, left behind in Europe were the natural insect enemies of the plant that helped to prevent population explosions. The goal of biological control is to reduce numbers of the target plant to lessen its ability to displace native vegetation. It does not eradicate a plant population. Obviously, extreme caution must be taken when introducing one organism to control another. Prior to introduction of a biological control agent, intensive testing is conducted to ensure that a safe and effective agent is selected. Currently, the effectiveness of this option are being field tested. As of 1996, biological controls have been released in 25 states and seven Canadian provinces.

Alternative Plantings for Purple Loosestrife
If you currently have purple loosestrife or a cultivar growing in your garden, it could contribute to the loss of fish and wildlife habitat. Please remove it (roots and all) or at least cut off the flower tops before they begin to form seed. Dispose of all materials properly.

Several species of garden perennials display characteristics similar to purple loosestrife, yet they pose no threat to our natural environment. The following are examples of some alternatives to purple loosestrife.

  • Blazing Star or Gay Feather (Liatris spp.)

  • Delphinium (Delphinium spp.)

  • False Spirea (Astilbe arendsii)

  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

  • Lupine (Lupinus)

  • Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis)

  • Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

  • Salvia (Salvia superba)

  • Siberian Iris (Iris)

  • Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata)

Environmental Education Series
The goal of the Department of Recreation and Parks is to preserve a balance of ecological, natural and environmental values in Open Space land throughout the County. We strive to manage these areas in a way that will preserve their ecological integrity while making them available to the public for passive recreational use.

A key element in our management plan is public awareness and education. This brochure is one of a series of publications designed to educate the public on matters related to the conservation and preservation of our environment.

To help accomplish this goal, our staff is available to speak with various civic and community organizations and to assist with the planning and implementation of projects such as habitat enhancement, reforestation, stream walks, water quality monitoring, etc. It is our firm belief that only by working together can we fulfill the moral and civic responsibility with which we have all been charged the stewardship of the land.

For additional information, or to become involved in our program, please call 410-313-4700.

Howard County Amphibian and Reptile Checklist

The Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas was a state wide amphibian and reptile survey conducted from 2010 to 2014 to map the distributions of these animals every 10-square miles. This checklist draws on data collected from this survey. 




Pickerel Frog

Fowler’s Toad

Eastern Cricket Frog

Spring Peeper Frog

Red-spotted Newt

Green Treefrog

American Bullfrog

Northern Black Racer

Southern Leopard Frog

Northern Green Frog

Eastern Wormsnake

Long-tailed Salamander

Wood Frog

Red-eared Slider Turtle*

Four-toed Salamander

Cope’s Gray Treefrog


Marbled Salamander

Gray Treefrog


Northern Spring Salamander

American Toad


Northern Slimy Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander


Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Northern Two-lined Salamander


Northern Copperhead

Northern Dusky Salamander


Eastern Milksnake

Northern Red Salamander


Eastern Smooth Earthsnake

Spotted Salamander


Northern Rough Greensnake

Eastern Ratsnake


Eastern Kingsnake

Eastern Gartnersnake


Queen Snake

Northern Ringnecked Snake


Northern Scarletsnake

Northern Watersnake


Common Five-lined Skink Lizard

Northern Brownsnake


Eastern Fence Lizard

Eastern Box Turtle


Northern Red-bellied Cooter Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle


Spotted Turtle

Eastern Snapping Turtle


False Map Turtle*



Eastern Musk Turtle



Eastern Mud Turtle

*Indicates an introduced species (not native to Maryland) but has been observed breeding in Howard County.

Even though some species are “Abundant” or “Common”, they inhabit specialized niches (under rotting tree trunks, along streak banks, bottom of ponds, etc.) and are unlikely to be casually observed on a hike.

Introduced Species:
(only one found, no evidence of breeding)

Squirrel Treefrog

California Kingsnake

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Diamondback Terrapin

Gopher Tortoise

House Gecko

Brown Anole


Never release a pet into the wild – they can do serious harm to the native ecosystem!

Tick Study and Management Project

In 2017 we began a study to evaluate integrated tick control strategies on single-family home sites located adjacent to large public lands in Howard County. The study, which has never been done before in Maryland, is part of a larger, five-year, area-wide Integrated Tick Management Project of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). DRP is collaborating with the USDA-ARS and the University of Maryland (UMD).

Read more details in the news releases here: 

Info: Timothy Maynard, Deer Management Program Manger

Fishing & Boating

Locations within Howard County Parks:
*Hotspots recommended by our anglers include (LINKS NEEDED) Font Hill Pond, Warfield Pond, Sewells Orchard Pond, Centennial Lake.

You may fish from shore or from a boat. A Maryland Freshwater Fishing License is required for anglers aged 16 and up. State fishing regulations are in effect, and game fish are part of a management program to maintain a balanced population. 

Been fishing on Centennial Lake recently? We want to hear from you! Post your catch on the Maryland Angler's Log from the Maryland Dept of Natural Resources. Be sure to put Centennial Lake your location and tag us on social media with #FishCentennial!

Boat Rentals
Adventure Shack & Boat Rentals Closed for 2021 Season.
All rentals are in-person and on a first-come, first-served basis. 
Information: 410-313-7303.

Boating Rules & Regulations (Centennial Lake) 
Centennial Lake is open for recreational boating March 1 through November 30Boat permits are required for all watercraft.

To Get a Boating Permit for Centennial Lake
(Boats are not permitted at other Howard County Parks)

All watercraft on Centennial Lake are required to have a boating permit for Centennial Lake. This is different from your Maryland boat registration. Only Class A boats are allowed, 16 feet in length or less, electric motors only. Includes rowboats, canoes, kayaks or rafts (rafts and inflatable canoes/kayaks must have at least three separate air chambers to be used on the lake). Sailboats must be under 14 feet in length. A life jacket must be provided for each occupant. Sailboards, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboards, inner tubes and jet skis are not permitted on the lake. Complete rules below. For information on Maryland boating requirements visit All Centennial Lake boaters are subject to Maryland state boating regulations.

Daily Boat Permits are $5 per boat per visit, payable by cash only at the self-serve kiosk next to the boat launch area. Be sure to complete and save the tear off receipt from your daily permit and keep it with you while on the lake.

Annual Permits (Valid March 1 through November 30) are $55 per boat.

Annual Permit sales available by appointment only from the Centennial Park Maintenance shop on Thursdays between 10am and 4pm. Please contact Dawn Thomas, [email protected] or Matt Medicus, [email protected] to schedule your appointment. Annual permits also available for walk-up purchase between 6-7pm on scheduled Nite Bite Fishing dates starting in April. Credit cards are accepted for annual permit sales (no cash or checks). Boaters may turn in up to three daily permit receipts from the current season toward the purchase of an annual permit.

Centennial Lake promotes safe boating!
Through a grant from the Sea Tow Foundation, a Life Jacket Loaner Station has been installed at the boat launch!  Forgot your PFD?  Have an extra passenger?  Grab a loaner life jacket for the day - stay safe and avoid a fine! Visit for more information from the National Safe Boating Council on how to stay safe on the water!

Centennial Lake Boating Rules & Regulations
1. All boats must have a daily lake permit or annual permit to operate on Centennial Lake. Annual permit decal must be displayed on side of boat in a visible location.
2. All Park rules & regulations must be followed. Failure to follow rules & regulations may result in expulsion from the lake temporarily or permanently, loss of park privileges, & in addition, thereto, may be subject to criminal & civil penalties set forth in Section 19.201 of the Howard County Code.
3. All Recreation and Parks employee instructions must be followed.
4. Swimming & Eskimo rolls are NOT permitted in the lake.
5. Sailboards, windsurfing, paddle boarding, or inner tubing is NOT permitted on the lake.
6. Gas Motors are NOT permitted on the lake.
7. Sculling is NOT Permitted on the lake.
8. Feeding the wildlife is NOT Permitted.
9. All rules & regulations for safe boating must be followed. Maryland state boating regulations can be found here:
10. All anglers 16 years of age & older are required to have a Maryland Freshwater Fishing License and to conform to all fishing regulations in regard to catching or returning fish to/from the lake.
11. An approved U.S.C.G. Personal Floatation Device is required to be on board for each passenger.
12. All boats must be off the lake by sunset.

Boats may be available to rent at the boat dock located in the South area.


In 1992, Howard County adopted the Forest Conservation Act. This was the first regulation that protects and conserves forest resources within the county. The regulation requires developers to retain and leave undisturbed, or plant new forestlands if they will be impacted by development. Through the land development process, if a developer is unable to retain existing or plant new forest within the development, they can pay into the Forest Conservation fee-in-lieu account to meet the forest protection requirement. To comply with these regulations, the Forest Mitigation program was created. 

In addition to the creation of the Forest Mitigation program, the Department of Recreation and Parks has implemented several planting programs to reforest properties that are not in Open Space, including schools, HOA’s and private property. The Department of Recreation and Parks actively seeks grants and partners with other County agencies to support these programs.

Forest Mitigation

The Forest Mitigation Program was implemented in 1996 through a cooperative agreement between the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Department of Recreation and Parks. The program utilizes the fee-in-lieu monies collected from developers to conduct mitigation on Open Space and Parkland throughout the County. Site selection is determined by prioritizing sites using the following criteria: wetlands and stream buffers, flood plains, steep slopes, forest fragmentation, existing uses, visual buffers and existing regulations. 

To view the Forest Conservation Easements layer and for information on individual easements, please visit the County’s Interactive Map.

Tree Canopy Program

The Tree Canopy program was created to improve environmental equity through focused tree planting in communities with lower tree canopy coverage. Trees improve our living space by:

  • Reducing stormwater runoff and flooding
  • Reducing excessive heat caused by black top and concrete surfaces
  • Reducing air pollutants related to asthma and other concerns
  • Reducing home cooling costs in summer
  • Improving property value

The program provides 1-10 trees and planting services to Howard County property owners prioritized by several factors:

  • Existing tree canopy coverage
  • Local impervious surface coverage
  • Properties with environmentally sensitive features such as streams or steep slopes
  • Population density
  • Available tree planting space

To qualify for the program, property owners must commit to receiving and maintaining 1 to 10 trees on their property. The property owner must care for the trees provided by the County including, but not limited to, watering, shelter maintenance and removal, protecting trees from deer and other pests, as well as invasive species remediation.

The County will assess each property to determine eligibility. A planting plan, including planting boundaries and a tree species list, will be created in collaboration with the property owner. An emphasis will be given to planting full size canopy trees.

Trees Available

Tree species will be selected, with your input, based on your goals for your planting as well as what will thrive in the conditions of your property. All species chosen must be native to Maryland. Below are examples of native trees that we plant. We strive to obtain trees which are over 5 feet in height and at least 1” caliper, but substitutions may need to be made based on availability.

  • Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  • River Birch, Betula nigra
  • Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor
  • American Elm, Ulmus Americana
  • Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis
  • Tulip Poplar, Lirodendron tulipifera
  • Northern Red Oak, Quercus rubra
  • Black gum, Nyssa sylvatica
  • And more…

How to Apply

Contact DJ Scheckelhoff prior to submitting your application to confirm that your property qualifies. We are currently on a waitlist. We will take your information and contact you prior to the planting season we can accommodate your planting. Planting season is early spring and late fall, weather dependent.

Info: DJ Scheckelhoff, 410-313-1688 or [email protected].


Turf to Trees Program

The Turf to Trees program was created to help alleviate the damaging effects of stormwater runoff by increasing tree coverage throughout the County. Trees help to abate stormwater runoff by:

  • Reducing water through absorption
  • Slowing precipitation through canopy coverage
  • Binding soil to prevent erosion
  • Reducing water through evaporation and transpiration

The program provides trees and planting services to Howard County property owners with lots of 1.5 to 10 acres in size, free of cost.

To qualify for the program, property owners must commit to receiving and maintaining a minimum of 50 trees. The property owner must care for the trees provided by the County including, but not limited to, watering, shelter maintenance and removal, protecting trees from deer and other pests, as well as invasive species remediation.

The County will assess each property to determine eligibility. A planting plan, including planting boundaries and a tree species list, will be created in collaboration with the property owner. An emphasis will be given to creating a contiguous planting, in which the trees are grouped together. However, non-contiguous plantings will be considered to address specific environmental concerns. Perimeter planting (one row of trees around a property) will not be accepted.

Priority will be given to properties with the following

  • Properties with 40% or less tree canopy coverage (the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that shelter the ground when viewed from above – Howard County staff can assess this remotely).
  • Properties with environmentally sensitive features such as streams or steep slopes. 
  • Properties in or near the Green Infrastucture Network (County staff can determine if your property is within this area).

Planting requirements

  • A minimum order of 50 trees to be planted on a contiguous 1/4 acre; larger plantings are welcome.
  • A minimum density requirement of 50 trees per 1/4 acre, about a 15 square foot spacing  
  • Five to ten species must be ordered to support biodiversity
  • Plantings must be at least 30 feet in width, or two rows of trees deep

Benefits of Tree Canopy
Trees improve water quality by reducing stormwater runoff, intercepting and storing rain water, increasing infiltration through root systems, reducing soil erosion and filtering pollutants. Trees help us by absorbing chemical pollutants, intercepting particulate matter, creating oxygen and cooling air temperature by turning water in vapor. Trees reduce atmospheric carbon by sequestering CO2 in their roots, trunks, stems and leaves. Trees raise property values by increasing curb appeal, creating privacy, reducing noise pollution and reducing heating and cooling costs by shading buildings and blocking winds.

Trees Available
A species list will be created, with your input, based on your goals for your new forest as well as what will thrive in the conditions of your property. All species chosen must be native to Maryland. Below are examples of native trees that we plant. We strive to obtain trees which are over 5 feet in height and at least 1” caliper, but substitutions may need to be made based on availability.  

  • Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  • River Birch, Betula nigra
  • Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor
  • American Elm, Ulmus Americana
  • Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana
  • Smooth Alder, Alnus serrulata
  • Easter Redbud, Cercis Canadensis
  • Chestnut Oak, Quercus prinus
  • Tulip Poplar, Lirodendron tulipifera
  • Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia
  • Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida
  • Willow Oak, Quercus phellos
  • Northern Red Oak, Quercus rubra
  • Black gum, Nyssa sylvatica
  • Loblolly, Pinus taeda
  • And more…

How to Apply
Contact DJ Scheckelhoff prior to submitting your application to confirm that your property qualifies. We are currently on a waitlist. We will take your information and contact you prior to the planting season we can accommodate your planting. Planting season is early spring and late fall, weather dependent. 

To apply for the program, please fill out and submit the Application and Homeowner agreement below via email (preferred), fax or mail. The Tree Request Form and Right of Entry will be needed once a planting plan is in place. 


Info: DJ Scheckelhoff410-313-1688 or [email protected].

Stream ReLeaf Program

The mission of the Stream Releaf program is to create and enhance riparian forest buffers (protective strips of trees, shrubs and other vegetation's along a stream) to improve water quality and wildlife habitat throughout Howard County. 

The County will assess each property to determine eligibility, planting area and the maximum number of plants which may be ordered. A minimum of 12 tree and/or shrubs must be ordered to participate in the program. The homeowner will choose plants appropriate for their yard from a list of native trees and shrubs provided by the County. All trees and shrubs obtained through the program must be planted on the applicant’s property within 75 feet of a stream.  

The homeowner must commit to planting and caring for the trees and shrubs provided by the County including, but not limited to, watering, shelter installation and maintenance, protecting trees and shrubs from deer and other pests. Trees and shrubs will be delivered by the County to the homeowner’s property in the spring and fall. 

Benefits of Stream Buffers
Stream Buffers help prevent stream bank erosion. The vegetative cover dissipates the energy and friction of moving water and the roots help hold the soil in place. Such vegetation also plays an important role in reducing water temperature – an important aspect of aquatic habitat. The vegetation traps much of the sediment, nutrients and other pollutants, preventing them from entering our waterways.

In addition to stabilizing the soil, plants utilize most of the trapped nutrients. In fact, an effective buffer will use up to 80% of the phosphorous and nearly 90% of the nitrogen, two of the biggest pollutants of the Chesapeake Bay.

Plant List
A species list will be created, with your input, based on your goals for your stream buffer as well as what will thrive in the conditions of your property. All species chosen must be native to Maryland. Below are examples of native trees and shrubs that we plant. We strive to obtain trees which are over 5 feet in height and 1” caliper (shrubs will be much smaller), but substitutions may need to be made based on availability. 


  • Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor
  • Pin Oak, Quercus palustris
  • American Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis
  • Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica
  • Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  • Black Willow, Salix nigra
  • River Birch, Betula nigra
  • Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis
  • Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
  • Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana 


  • Smooth Alder, Alnus serrulata
  • Canadian Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis
  • Spicebush, Lindera benzoin
  • Redosier Dogwood, Cornus stolonifera
  • Blackhaw Viburnum, Viburnum prunifolium
  • Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum
  • Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia
  • Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
  • Winterberry, Ilex verticilata
  • Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis

How to Apply
Contact Kyle Crouse prior to submitting your application to confirm that your property qualifies. To apply for the program, please fill out and submit the Application and Homeowner agreement below via email (preferred), fax or mail. The Right of Entry form will be needed once a planting plan is in place. 

Info: Kyle Crouse, 410-313-1636 or [email protected]

Annual Tree Giveaway

In September 2022, Howard County distributed 3,000 trees to residents. If you missed this year’s tree giveaway and would like to receive notifications prior to next year’s giveaway, please sign up here for notification.

Tree Pickup Locations

There are two pickup locations and three dates to choose from. The dates and times are applicable to both pickup locations.  


  • West Friendship Park- (12985 Frederick Rd, West Friendship, MD 21794) across from the Howard County Fairgrounds, shares property with the Howard County Living Farm Heritage Museum. The pick-up area will be in a field toward the the front of the park.  
  • Rockburn Park West- (6105 Rockburn Branch Park Rd, Elkridge, MD 21075). Use the entrance off Montgomery Road, pass Rockburn Elementary School on your right and make a left into the first parking lot near the historic Clover Hill house.  


  • Wednesday, September 21, 4:00pm-7:00pm
  • Thursday, September 22, 4:00pm-7:00pm
  • Saturday, September 24, 10:00am-2:00pm

Each site will only have inventory for that site and date. If you cannot pick up your tree on either of these dates, please do not reserve a tree. You may have another person pick up for you. Have them bring a printout of your reservation. 

How to Plant a Tree

Please view our instructional video to learn how to properly plant your tree. For more information on where to plant your tree and safe tree placement, please refer to the information provided in the “Tree Planting and Maintenance Guidelines” section below. Always remember to call Miss Utility before you dig.

Helpful Information

  • When you reserve your tree, your reservation information will appear, and you will also receive a confirmation email. Please save one of these (print, take a screen shot or cut and paste).
  • At pickup, you will need to bring your print out (or screenshot on your phone) of the tree reservation. 
  • If you arrive at the incorrect location, you will be given directions to the other location.  
  • If you miss your Wednesday or Thursday pickup, you may pick up your tree on Saturday, but you may not pick up a Saturday tree on Wednesday or Thursday (our delivery for each pickup day is specific to that day).
  • It is recommended to bring a bag, tarp or blanket to lay your tree on to keep your car clean.  
  • All trees will be rooted in 5-gallon containers and will vary is height from 3’ to 10’. Please plan accordingly.  
  • Please be prepared to load your tree into your car without assistance. 
  • If you are unable to pick up your tree, someone may pick it up for you. (Make sure to provide them with a copy of your "receipt."

To learn more details about these tree species, visit Trees improve the environment in terms of climate, storm water, energy savings and economic value to homeowners. Learn more about tree benefits at

    About the Trees

    The trees will be in 5-gallon containers and approximately 3 to 10 feet tall, depending on the species. All species are native to Maryland, are acclimated to our climate and provide food and shelter for wildlife. Please utilize the information below to pick a tree best suited to the conditions of your yard.

    Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica)– grows to a height of 30-75′ with a width of 20-50′. Lesser known but lovely, prefers partial shade to full sun and can tolerate dry, moist, or seasonally wet soils. Has a greenish flower in the spring, with a black fleshy fruit and stunning red fall foliage. The Black gum is a versatile species with high wildlife value.

    Red Maple (Acer rubrum)- grows to a height of 40-100′ with a spread of 30-75′. Prefers full sun to partial shade and moist to wet soils. Often found in swampy areas and may need extra watering if planted in a dry area. Has a small red flower early in spring and vibrant red to yellow fall foliage. The Red Maple is the earliest spring bloomer. 

    Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)– grows to a height of 20-50′ with a spread of 20-50′. Prefers partial shade but is often seen growing in full sunlight as well. Prefers dry to moist soils. Grows well in open forests and along forest edges. White spring flowers with a red to orange berry and scarlet foliage in the fall. The Flowering Dogwood has high wildlife value, with fall migrant birds relying on its berries. 

    Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)- grows to a height of 20-35’ with a spread of 20-35’. Prefers partial sunlight to full shade but is often seen growing in full sun as well. Prefers well drained to moist soils. Tolerates a variety of locations but grows well as an understory species and along streambanks. Pink to purple spring flowers with a seedpod in the fall and golden yellow foliage. The Eastern Redbud is a nitrogen fixing species. 

    Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)- grows to a height of 13-40’ with a spread of 35-50’. Prefers full to partial shade and moist soils. A great understory or woods edge tree that loves to be planted along streams and bottom lands. Thrives is deciduous forests and provides interest with its sinewy trunk (also nicknamed musclewood). Has reddish greenish flowers on catkins the spring and a small nut/seed in the fall along with orangish red fall foliage. 72 species of butterflies and moths utilize the hornbeam as a larval food source.

    River Birch (Betula nigra)- grows to a height of 50-75’ with a spread of 35-50’. Prefers full to partial sunlight and moist to wet soils. Grows well on forest edge, sunny spots along a waterway or bottom lands where water may collect. Has an attractive peeling bark and high wildlife value. The River Birch we will be giving away are single stem.

    Common Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)- grows to a height of 50-75’ with a spread of 35-50’. Prefers full to partial sunlight and dry to moist soils. Will grow in a variety of conditions including woodland and open fields, as long as there is no standing water and some sunlight. Persimmon will produce edible fruits when given enough sunlight and have a high wildlife value. In the spring they have a yellowish flower and provide berries in the fall.  

    White Oak (Quercus alba)- grows to a height of 75-100’ with a spread of 75-100’. Prefers full to partial sunlight and well drained to moist soils. Has a yellowish flower in the spring and provides acorns in the fall, thus making it a very important tree for wildlife. Fall foliage is bright red and provides an abundance of shade and tree canopy coverage. The White Oak is the Maryland state tree!

    Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)- grows to a height of 12-30’ with a spread of 12-30’. Can tolerate a variety of light levels from full sun to shade and prefers moist to wet soils. Often found in forested wetlands or on streambanks and pond edges. The Sweetbay Magnolia is semi-evergreen and may lose its leaves during a cold winter. In the spring it will produce large cream-colored flowers and a red berry in the fall. The Sweetbay Magnolia we will be giving away are single stem.

    All tree facts listed above are from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service “Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping: Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”  


    • In 2010, the County uti­lized funds from inter­est of the fee-in-lieu* pro­gram to provide free trees to County res­i­dents. These events were called 2010 Trees and 2010 More Trees. Res­i­dents chose a native tree, picked it up, and planted it on their prop­erty. Over 5,000 trees were planted through two events.
    • In spring 2017, 250 native trees were given out to Howard County res­i­dents through a part­ner­ship with the Arbor Day Foun­da­tion and BGE.
    • In fall 2019, 2,000 native trees were given out to Howard county residents through Howard County Recreation and Parks. The event was such a success it became an annual offering. The trees were in 5-gallon containers and approximately 5 to 8 feet tall. Native species generally live longer and require less care. The tree species given away were: Eastern Redbud, River Birch, Northern Red Oak, Swamp White Oak, Red Maple, Sycamore, American Hornbeam, and Black Gum.
    • In fall 2020, the county did the program again, distributing 2020 native trees. The tree species were Eastern Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, Black Gum, and Red Maple.  
    • Due to the success of the program and continued support by residents, the county repeated the program in 2021 with the same trees species and gave away another 2,000 trees. In 2022 we plan to add additional tree species to increase biodiversity throughout the county.
    • In fall 2022: Sign up began at 2 PM on September 7. Howard County residents were allowed to reserve one tree per address to be picked up on either September 21 (4-7pm), 22 (4-7pm) and 24 (10am-2pm), 2022. Residents are responsible for picking up, planting, and caring for their tree. 
    • New in 2022: The Annual Tree Giveaway has been very popular in the previous 3 years! This year brings us to 9,225 trees planted in Howard County through this program since the project started in 2019. For 2022, the County has updated the Tree Giveaway in several ways to reach a wider audience. Here is how:
      • Working with local non-profits to distribute some of the trees in smaller giveaways. These include: Community Ecology Institute, NAACP, Hopeworks, Long Reach CARES, Wilde Lake CARES, Volunteers, Savage Community Association, and the Youth Climate Institute. These are full and were done before the Annual Tree Giveaway that opens Sept 7th.
      • Adding an evening sign up option: Trees will be released in two batches on Wednesday September 7th, half of the trees at 2pm and the other half at 7pm.
      • Limiting trees to one per household: Gives more people the opportunity to get one.
      • Adding a third pick up day: Provides more flexibility in pickup options.
    Students Branching Out

    Stu­dents Branch­ing Out engages Howard County stu­dents in local tree plant­ing efforts. Students have helped to promote the County’s tree planting program like Stream ReLeaf and Turf to Trees and participated in tree plantings on school grounds and in County parks. 

    For more information on the Student Branching Out projects, please visit Live Green Howard.

    Volunteer Tree Planting Opportunities

    Each year the Natural Resources Division hosts two volunteer tree plantings. In the spring, on or near Earth Day (April 22nd) and in the Fall on National Family Volunteer Day (2nd Saturday in November).

    For more information on volunteer events, please vist HoCo Volunteers.

    Tree Planting and Maintenance Guidelines

    Tree Placement Guidelines

    • Always call Miss Utility prior to planting your tree.
    • Trees should be planted according to their size at maturity, not their size at the time of planting.
    • For successful growth, trees must be planted in an area with adequate sunlight and moisture needs for that species.
    • Place trees no closer than 12 feet apart.
    • Trees should not be closer than 10-15 feet from your house or driveway.
    • Trees cannot be planted within 10 feet of a sewer or water line. (Look for public manhole covers or in your yard/driveway there will be a smaller cover that shows the path of your private hookup. Generally, this leads in a straight line. from the sewer, to your individual hookup and then to your house.)
    • Trees may not be planted in utility rights-of-way such as, but not limited to, water, sewer, natural gas, or oil pipelines. (Miss Utility will be called to check for these.)
    • Trees over 25 feet tall may not be planted within 25 feet of an overhead utility line, trees over 40 feet tall cannot be planted within 40 feet of an overhead utility line.
    • Please be careful that trees are not placed in an area with a private underground utility, such as an invisible dog fence, as Miss Utility cannot identify such private utilities. (Howard County is not responsible if a private utility is hit.)

    If the planting location conflicts with an underground utility as marked by Miss Utility, please move your marker to the closest safe location, at least 18 inches from the marked line. If our contractors do not deem an area safe due to proximity to a marked underground utility or otherwise they will plant as close as possible to the existing marker.

    Tree Planting Guidelines

    1. Locate a site for your tree or shrub that allows for an appropriate amount of sunlight and moisture for that species.

    2. Dig a hole two times larger than the root system being planted. Plant the tree or shrub at the same level as it grew in the nursery.

    3. Neatly cut away any broken or damaged roots and branches with sharp pruning tools. Loosen the root system gently.

    4. In the hole, make a mound of soil and spread the plant’s roots out and down over it.

    5. Place soil from the hole around the roots. Water the plant when the hole is half full. Add soil and topsoil if needed to fill the hole and completely cover the roots. Pat the soil gently, it is important not to eliminate vital air spaces by stamping it down. Water the plant again.

    6. Spread mulch over the planting area to a depth of two to three inches, but do not place mulch against the trunk of the tree or shrub.

    7. Do not stake unless the tree has a large, top-heavy crown or if the planting is on a site where wind or people may push the tree over. If these conditions apply, stake the tree for a maximum of one year unless using a tree shelter (please see Sheltering Guidelines).

    8. Water the plant as needed, being vigilant in times of drought.

    9. At the one-year anniversary of planting, fertilizer may be applied to the tree.

    Tree Sheltering Guidelines

    Tree shelters help to protect your tree from deer rubbing their antlers on the stem of the tree and stripping its bark. Please follow these guidelines to install your tree shelter. These shelters cannot be used for shrubs or coniferous trees, only single stem decisions trees.


    1. Using a mallet or hammer insert stake into the ground about four inches from the base of the tree. Make sure that the stake is deep enough that it cannot be easily uprooted.

    2. Wrap the plastic mesh tree guard around the tree trunk so that the opening is facing the stake.

    3. Using two or three zip ties, secure the tree guard to the stake, making sure to bind the opening of the tree guard at the same time.


    • Shelters should remain on your tree for at least four years, unless the shelter begins to inhibit the growth of the tree.
    • Shelters may periodically need maintenance or re-installation. If a branch grows through the side of the shelter, simply cut a larger hole for the branch to grow.

    Trees and shrubs not provided with a shelter can be protected by treating them with repellent or fencing with wooden or metal stakes and a flexible material such as chicken wire.

    Watering Instructions

    Watering your newly planted material is crucial for its health and survival, particularly during the summer months.

    • The best time to water is early morning (6-9am) or early evening (4-7pm).
    • Water once a week when temperatures remain below 65F and at least twice a week when temperatures exceed 70F.
    • Do not use a sprinkler on plants in the middle of the day. Water on leaves on a sunny day will burn tender foliage.
    • The best method of watering trees is to use a hose on a slow trickle around the root ball of the tree. Allow time for the water to be absorbed into the soil and avoid runoff.
    • During winter months watering is not required. Once the ground thaws in the spring watering can resume as needed.
    • Trees should receive 10 gallons of water weekly for every caliper inch. For example, a 2.5” tree should receive 25 gallons of water weekly. That can be spread out into two waterings.

    Remember, even though it may have rained, the root system of your plant material may not be wet. Soil on the surface around the plant material may be damp while the root system may be bone dry. When in doubt, dig down to the root system. If dry or too wet, adjust watering accordingly. Soil should be moist to the touch but not wet enough to be molded into a ball.

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