June 1 Hampshire Life: “Northampton’s tree huggers dig in”

This June 1 article from the Gazette’s June 1 edition of Hampshire Life discusses the recent history of trees in Northampton and the work of the Tree Stewards. Some excerpts:

[Lilly] Lombard and [Sue] Crimmins, along with a few others, call themselves the Tree Stewards, and they are determined to keep the city green.

The small group, which fluctuates between six and eight members, came together five years ago, deciding that officials were failing to protect the city’s historic trees. Since then the Stewards have planted and tended trees throughout the community, worked to get state grants and donations from nurseries, and mapped out a bicycle tour of some of the city’s notable trees…

Lombard sees trees and open space in general as having an important role in combating future environmental problems…

“There are a thousand reasons [trees and open space] have value,” Lombard says. “Water, soil and air quality, habitat, aesthetics, global warming mitigation — you name it…”

In response to the Stewards’ work and their call for the city to take better care of its trees, the mayor and the City Council created the Tree Committee four years ago. It is made up of representatives from four departments — the Conservation Commission, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Board and the Board of Public Works — as well as four city residents appointed by the mayor, one of whom must be a trained arborist. Jay Girard of Florence, an arborist at The Williston Northampton School in Easthampton, fills that slot. The panel meets monthly to discuss tree planting and problem trees, advises the DPW and holds public hearings if a city-owned tree is at risk…

Still, Joanne Montgomery, who founded the Tree Stewards and developed the ordinance that created Girard’s committee, thinks the city can do more — from giving the Tree Committee at least a minimal budget to requiring businesses that cut down trees to replace them with multiple plantings. “[The city] has the jurisdiction and the equipment and resources that we don’t have,” she says…

Also published in the June 1 edition of Hampshire Life, “Trees: Part of the plan to save the planet”:

Research has shown that, particularly in urban areas, strategically planted trees can go a long way toward cutting energy costs in hot weather by providing shade and reducing air-conditioning needs. In cold weather they can lower heating demand by providing windbreaks. They also absorb pollution.

Rutherford Platt, a longtime professor of geography and public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, points out that most cities and many suburban areas suffer from the “heat island” effect — large areas of sunlight-absorbing asphalt and concrete, like parking lots, where shade is nonexistent and temperatures may be 10 degrees higher than in, say, a nearby park.

“When you consider how many of these heat islands are found in our cities, you get a sense of the importance of adding trees to urban landscapes,” says Platt.

In addition to providing much-needed shade, Platt says, trees help control erosion, and they can help absorb or at least slow down storm-water flows, which can overwhelm sewer systems during heavy rains.

Yet Gangloff [Deborah Gangloff, executive director of American Forests, a Washington, D.C., environmental group] says her organization has documented a sharp decline in the tree canopy over the last 30 years in two dozen cities and metro areas it has studied. Development and dwindling budgets for municipal tree care have taken their toll, she notes. “It’s a very bad trend that is costing cities billion of dollars [in energy costs]. But it’s something we can correct…”

Aside from their environmental benefits, adds Gangloff, trees contribute grace and aesthetics to a community, and help define that intangible but vital quality: livability. “It’s hard to put a value on trees in terms of the kind of beauty and comfort they provide to us,” she says. “It would be a much harsher world without them.”

Bad feelings over lost trees recently arose around St. Mary’s Cemetery on Bridge Road, as reported on July 5 in the Gazette, “Neighbors of cemetery seek greater harmony”:

Residents of the Lathrop Community, located next to the cemetery’s expansion on the other side of Bridge Road, have raised other concerns… The most recent concern was over the cutting of a thick grove of trees – about 60 to 80 feet deep, some 80 to 100 years old – that residents had considered a barrier between their homes and the busy Bridge Road.

“It was a shock to everybody – the scope and speed with which it was done,” said Cooper, who said within a four to six week period, the thick border of trees was decimated.

Livieratos said he had to cut the trees because the cemetery is expanding to meet demand. He also said he’s planning to plant a grove of wildflowers there.

Cooper said though it is the cemetery’s right to cut trees on its property, the extent of the cutting, coupled with a lack of communication about it, left a bad taste for many Lathrop residents.

“They have a right. I don’t think it’s a matter of law, it’s a matter of moral consideration and being a good neighbor,” said Cooper…

See also:

Community Tree Ordinances and Bylaws for Massachusetts Communities

See our Citizen Forester article for November 2003 “Air Quality, Public Health and the Role of Urban Forests”.

Cooling Our Cities
[PDF]: A fact sheet on tree planting as a way to save money and
electricity. [Original link pointed to withdrawn resource – we found
another source for this fact sheet]

Trees and Sustainability: Urban Air Quality:
This 12 part brochure from the University of Lancaster in the UK,
nicely summarizes the issues around urban trees and air quality with

Beginning in 2003, many Massachusetts communities will be faced with a
mandate from the USEPA to develop and implement non-point source
pollution and stormwater management plans. Fortunately, urban forestry
strategies can help satisfy many of these stormwater management
requirements in a cost effective manner. Trees, forests, and other
natural areas effectively manage water through interception,
evopo-transpiration, and infiltration. Together, these processes can
significantly reduce peak stormwater flows, stabilize base flows, and
naturally filter drinking water.