Greening Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities

Blog submitted by Julie Coop, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The Greening the Gateway Cities program (GGC) is a multi-agency partnership designed to reduce household heating and cooling energy use by increasing tree canopy cover in urban areas.

Supporting groups include the Massachusetts 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). 

The GGC program is a pilot of a larger statewide policy described in Massachusetts' Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 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 and equipment.  The pilot program would encompass five planting seasons to begin in the spring of 2014 and ending with the spring 2016 season.

Chelsea, Massachusetts tree gator

Out of 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts, three—Chelsea, Fall River, Holyoke—were selected to be part of the pilot program, which has a goal of planting 15,000 trees in select neighborhoods across the three cities. To reach the goal of increasing tree canopy cover by 10 percent in the targeted study areas, trees are being planted on both public property and private property.  Eighty-five percent of trees planted through this program will consist of private property trees.

In late spring 2014, all three pilot cities received street trees to plant in the public right of way in order to kick off the program and to generate interest in the larger tree planting effort, as well as to allow EEA to test the capacity of the municipalities for planting and maintaining trees.

Thanks to the readiness level of partner cities, Chelsea was also selected to receive trees to plant on private property, planted by DCR crews comprised of a local labor pool and led by DCR Foresters. The DCR field crew coordinated with a local non-profit to conduct outreach and door to door canvassing. EEA secured USDA Forest Service funding to help non-profit partners in each of the three Gateway Cities to assist with outreach for private property tree plantings.

At the conclusion of the spring 2014 planting season, a total of 476 trees had been planted on public and private property in all three cities at a cost of $380 per tree. A review of the program was then conducted to determine the best method to bring this project to scale.

During the fall 2014 planting season, an additional DCR tree planting crew was added in Chelsea and a new one was created for Holyoke. It is anticipated that the Greening the Gateway Cities Program will continue to grow each season and will provide similar success in other Gateway Cities.

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