Honoring Mel Noland
Like the great Wye Oak, Mel so dominated our community of forestry boards that it seems impossible he should be gone. It has taken some time to gather our thoughts and begin to move on without him. This is just one imperfect attempt to provide some information about Mel. We invite others to provide facts about and memories of Mel.
Mel was born and raised in Dundalk, Baltimore County. Certainly Dundalk always remained close to his heart, and we're sure he had much to do with the Greening of Dundalk receiving the very first PLANT Award in 1991. Mel married the late Gloria Waldo and went to work for the former C&P Telephone Company. Mel and Gloria bought a four-acre parcel in Kingsville, eastern Baltimore County, in 1975, and their house was built in 1976. Numerous nephews and nieces remain in the area.
After his retirement from C&P , Mel became a tireless volunteer for forestry education and tree planting efforts. He won the 2003 Ellen Fraites Wagner Award from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Their citation of Mel's work provides an excellent summary:
Mr. Noland has lit a spark under hundreds of resource professionals and volunteers. He exemplifies the mission of the Chesapeake Bay Trust - promoting public awareness and involvement in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. A volunteer with the Baltimore County Forestry Council since 1978, Noland contributes more than 1,500 volunteer hours each year promoting tree planting and wise forest management in Baltimore County. He has facilitated hundreds of tree plantings; pioneered school-based tree grow-out stations now used throughout the state, and conducted countless workshops. Noland has worked tirelessly with educators, helping to develop both the Schoolyard Reforestation/Wildlife Habitat Manual and an instructional video entitled More Trees, Please. He has also been a key figure in the Chesapeake Bay Reforestation and Class Tree Programs though which almost all of Baltimore County's 150 elementary, middle, and high schools have planted more than 3,000 trees.
For many years, Mel served as Chair of the Baltimore County Forestry Board, and one finds in DNR communications fleeting references of his work with the Forest Service and other groups. In 2004, Mel became the President of the Maryland Association. He had hoped to use this platform to provide a more organized effort to promote sustainable forestry practices but soon found himself working with DNR Forest Service to provide additional resources, as budget cuts prompted cutbacks in Forest Service programs. It was a tiring and difficult process, as he himself admitted, but he cheerfully shouldered the extra requirements. During those years he was saddened by the deaths of several important and supportive forestry board members.
However, it was not all forestry-related issues in which Mel was involved. He was very active in his church and with the Freemason Society. Mel was awarded the 33rd degree status in 2009, the highest level a mason can achieve.
You may be surprised, as we were, to read a touching tribute to Mel from Jordan Kitt's Music and Allen Organ on Facebook. Mel is identified as "organist" Melvin Noland—a world completely apart from his forestry work. The interested reader can Google this reference and find a photo of a handsome organ that Mel installed in his house. This apparently was the fourth such organ he had purchased during a 20-year association with the staff at this establishment.
Baltimore County Forestry Board Chair Glenn Ferenschak provides another dimension to Mel—that of a master woodworker. Glenn related his surprise to find Mel's basement equipped with a host of professional woodworking tools, all connected to a dust collector. Glenn said that apparently Mel made most of the furniture in his house over the years.
But it was with forestry, and particularly forestry education, that Mel was best known. Beside the Trust award mentioned above, Mel also received the Maryland Forest Association's Educator of the Year award in 1999, and served on their board since 2000. Then, in 2009, came perhaps his crowning achievement-being named an honorary Admiral of the Chesapeake by Governor Martin O'Malley. This is the highest award the Governor can give a private citizen of Maryland, and Mel joined a list of prominent recipients. I suspect, however, given his choice, he would rather have been outside planting a tree.
In 2011, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed a bill renaming Maryland's only forestry cost share program "The Mel Noland Woodland Incentives Fund," honoring Mel for his leadership of the Maryland Forestry Boards and his outstanding example as a volunteer.