, MD — For the second year in a row, the Grounds Section at the Perry Point VA Medical Center, a division of the VA Maryland Health Care System, has been recognized with two awards for their comprehensive tree care and maintenance program.
Perry Point was among the first health care facilities in the nation to be designated as a Tree Campus Healthcare facility by the Arbor Day Foundation, which was first awarded in 2020. The Tree Campus Healthcare Facility designation is an innovative and unique program aimed to transform community health and wellness, recognizing the life-saving benefits trees provide on health care campuses across the nation. The designation recognizes health care campuses that incorporate tree planting, education and community engagement in their wellness programs. The Perry Point VA Medical Center also earned the Maryland Urban and Community Forest Committee’s Maryland Forestry Green People Loving and Nurturing Trees (PLANT) Award for caring for and planting trees. Last year alone, 88 new trees, all native to Maryland, were planted on the medical center grounds thanks to activities on Arbor Day, Earth Day and Veterans Day. Even more trees will be planted this year on those same observances.
“Trees are vital to health by cleaning our air and water,” said Jonathan R. Eckman, P.E., director of the VA Maryland Health Care System. We’re delighted and proud that our efforts to maintain and enhance the natural beauty of our campus at the Perry Point VA Medical Center, in collaboration with our wellness programing, have been recognized nationally.”
During the past three years, more than 205 trees native to Maryland have been planted in strategic places on the medical center campus. Trees that need more water, such as the Black Willow, Swamp White Oak and Bald Cypress, were planted in areas subject to flooding. Other trees were planted in stands and in areas where they can best thrive and provide shade, including Sweetbay Magnolia, Grandiflora Magnolia, Kousa Dogwood, Flowering Dogwood, Pignut Hickory, River Birch, Willow Oaks, Eastern Redbuds, and even the Bald Cyprus, native to Southern Maryland where the climate is warmer. Two memorial trees, donated by the families of two longtime employees, were planted to commemorate the employees outside the buildings where they worked.
“This is the third year we’ve planted Bald Cyprus trees on the campus in an effort to establish them,” said Charles Kevin Hill, Grounds Section foreman for the Perry Point VA Medical Center. We did this in partnership with Maryland Forestry to see if they could thrive in Northern Maryland,”
The heath care system’s Facilities & Engineering Service, which oversees the maintenance of the property, also replaces fallen trees along the streets on the campus and within the Critical Area Commission (CAC) buffer zone along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline. “In the CAC buffer zone, it is a one per one tree replacement ratio, but since 2017 we have been able to exceed that ratio,” Hill said.
To be considered for Tree Campus Healthcare facility recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation, the Perry Point VA Medical Center met five program standards, which include having an advisory committee, a facility tree care plan, a community forestry project, a celebration event, and a financial investment toward a tree care plan or project.
“Tree Campus Healthcare celebrates the efforts of health care facilities creating a healthier and greener property,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Trees can play an important role in patient recovery and overall community wellness. This designation is a sign of a health care facility’s commitment to the connections between nature and health.”
“During the Earth Day celebration at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in 2021, we provided an opportunity for the Grounds Service to lead employees in planting trees on the campus, while also inviting the town of Perryville to plant 23 trees along our shared border,” said Jen Dallaire, Green Environmental Management System manager. “The additional trees bridged the gap in the treeline between the two properties, which share hiking trails,” she added. Even more trees will be planted on Earth Day this year.
The Green [PLANT] Award recognizes sustained, fully functional programs that are organized, funded and have fulltime technical assistance to ensure continuity. “Planting trees is one way that everyone can contribute to our shared vision. Trees provide ecological, economic and quality of life benefits – protecting air and water quality, reducing energy costs, increasing property values and beautifying neighborhoods and highways,” Wayne Lucas, chair of the Maryland Urban and Community Forest Commission, wrote in the award letter.
In partnership with the Maryland Arborist Association that began in 2022, the medical center plans to complete tree care maintenance and mitigate tree hazards due to storm events in recent years that caused the campus’ sole Sequoia tree to fall. The facility also plans to continue annual and bi-annual tree planting events to increase the tree canopy on the campus for five years or longer. These twin goals will benefit the numerous veteran patients who visit daily or who live on the campus.