Apr. 25—Six-year-old Penelope Yungwirth danced through the fields of a Sabillasville farm Saturday morning, singing to the more than 1,000 saplings that surrounded her. The songs, she announced, would make them happy.
Penelope's mother, Nichole Yungwirth, drove from Hampstead with her two children so they could join the dozens of volunteers planting trees on Jim and Peggy Royer's property.
"I like to show them that when a lot of people come together, you can get things done really quickly," Yungwirth said.
About 50 volunteers planted 1,300 trees at the event, organized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in honor of Earth Day. Eventually, the six acres of new trees will grow into a diverse woodland that will help clean the air around the farm and the waters of adjacent Friends Creek, said Rob Schnabel, a restoration scientist with the foundation.
Planting trees is one of the best ways to combat climate change, Schnabel said, and forest buffers between farmland and streams do wonders for water quality. The trees will help replenish organic matter in the soil, prevent flooding and intercept polluted runoff at the source.
Friends Creek begins in the Catoctin Mountains and winds through the farm before eventually joining up with the Monocacy River, Schnabel said. The Royers' land borders a stretch of the creek that's high up in the watershed. It's what scientists call a first-order stream, meaning it's not fed by any other tributaries.
"This is where it's most important to do these types of projects," Schnabel said. "Once you're all the way down on the main stem of the Monocacy, it's too late" to address the pollution that's made its way there.
Volunteers on Saturday planted about 12 different species of trees and shrubs, including river birch, sycamore and dogwood. Diversity is key for the plants and animals who will eventually make their homes in the forest, Schnabel said, and it ensures protection against pests.
The Royers and their horses live on 150 acres of farmland tucked into the mountains, not far from Sabillasville Elementary School. They said they teamed up with the CBF out of a desire to make their property friendlier to the bay.
"So many things affect the environment that we don't realize," Peggy Royer said. "We want to keep our country going, and our nation and our world going, for years to come."
Schnabel said his foundation's tree-planting efforts rely on individual property owners to offer up their land.
"There's funding out there to do this," he said. "The big limiting factor is landowners that want to have more trees on their properties."
Washington, D.C.-based WGL Energy provided funding for some of the trees planted at Saturday's event. Janice Martorano, a business development manager for the company, estimated that the 1,300 trees would pull 38,000 cubic tons of carbon dioxide out of the air over the course of a year. That's equivalent to pulling 6,800 cars off the roads for a year, she said.
Volunteers came from across Maryland — and even crossed state lines — to lend a hand in making those numbers a reality. Caroline Kemerling, who drove over an hour from Ashburn, Virginia, said she wanted to contribute to the effort to mitigate climate change.
"It's a day outside in the fresh air doing something meaningful," she said. "It helps our generation and future generations."
Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek