Greening the Gateway Cities Program Enhancing Public Benefits of Trees

Thursday, July 9, 2015

With support from the Urban and Community Forestry program of the USDA Forest Service, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Bureau of Forestry & Fire is achieving goals outlined in Massachusetts’ Forest Action Plan.

The Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGC) is a partnership amongst four Massachusetts’ agencies, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and is designed to reduce household heating and cooling by increasing tree canopy cover in urban areas in the state’s Gateway Cities. The GGC is a pilot of a larger statewide policy to increase and retain tree canopy to reduce building sector greenhouse gas emissions..

In January 2014, EEA and DCR developed and implemented a plan where EEA would provide oversight and funding for a pilot program and DCR would provide a program manager, field staff, vehicles, tools, and equipment. The pilot program was launched with 1,312 trees planted and plans to encompass 5 planting seasons.

Out of the 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts, three (Chelsea, Fall River, Holyoke) were selected to participate in the pilot program, with the goal of increasing tree canopy cover by 10% in select neighborhoods. To reach this goal, it was estimated that a total of 15,000 trees would need to be planted on both public and private property with the aim of planting the majority of trees on private property where the greatest available planting area exists in urban areas. In late spring of 2014, all three pilot cities received street trees to plant in the public right of way.

“Planting trees in urban areas is critical not only for the health of the city but most especially for the positive benefits that trees provide to the people that live and work in those communities,” said Peter Church, State Forester.

Due to the location of current DCR resources and the readiness level of partner cities, Chelsea was also selected to receive trees to plant on private property, planted by DCR crews comprised of local labor and led by DCR Foresters. The DCR field crew coordinated with a local non-profit, The Chelsea Collaborative, to conduct outreach and door to door canvassing. EEA secured U.S. Forest Service funding to help our non-profit partners to assist with outreach for private property tree plantings. Our other non-profit partners are Nuestras Raices in Holyoke and Fall River Street Tree Planting Program.

At the conclusion of the spring planting season, 476 trees were planted on both public and private property in all three cities at a cost of $380 per tree and a review of the program was conducted to work out logistics and to determine solutions to increase the scale of the project. The project scale was increased for the fall 2014 planting season. A DCR tree planting crew was added in Chelsea and one was created for Holyoke to not only assist the municipalities with public tree plantings but to plant trees on private property that our non-profit partners helped to identify. It is anticipated that the GGC will continue to grow each season and will provide similar success in other Gateway Cities.

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