WESTFIELD – A ceremonial tree planting May 14 at 54 Court St. marked the start of the Greening the Gateway Cities program in Westfield.
Over the next few years, approximately 2,400 trees will be planted in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), under the Baker-Polito Administration’s Greening the Gateway Cities program.
Present at the tree planting were DCR Urban Forester Sarah Greenleaf, Ward 3 Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane, Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy, City Engineer Mark Cressotti, Tree Warden Scott Hathaway and Department of Conservation and Recreation staff.
The Greening the Gateway Cities Program seeks to reduce energy use and flooding from stormwater runoff and improve the quality of life in selected cities, especially during the increasingly hot summers in Massachusetts, through the planting of thousands of trees. Trees have the ability to cool neighborhoods and reduce the “urban heat island” effect where large areas of pavement cause significantly hotter living conditions, according to program information.
Greenleaf, who is also managing the Greening the Gateway Cities program in Chicopee and Holyoke, said the DCR crew started last week, and has already planted 20 trees in Westfield, including eastern redbud, swamp white oak, pin oak, dawn redwood, several Hanna’s Heart (katsura trees), smaller variety and also full katsura’s. “Something we really focus on in this program is planting shade trees. The very essence of the program is to expand the urban canopy,” she said.
Most of the plantings will be focused on repopulating street trees in Environmental Justice neighborhoods in Wards 2 and 3, which include areas with over 25% of residents who are low income, minority or non-English speaking, and in environmentally challenged areas.
Greenleaf said residents within the planting zone may request a tree to be planted on their property, by visiting maurbancanopy.org, which has information on the goals of the program and shows the different zones to be planted. A map of the area to be planted is also available at https://www.mass.gov/doc/ggcp-westfield/download.
To learn whether a home is within the zone and eligible for a tree, visit the program website at maurbancanopy.org to determine eligibility, and to sign up. Residents may also leave a message for a call back from the Westfield program at 617-626-1473.
Once eligibility is determined, DCR crew members will visit the site, look at sun exposure, drainage and how close it is to the street, and consider which trees would be appropriate, Greenleaf said.
Last year, when Westfield was accepted into the program, Hathaway said the DCR will purchase the trees and provide the labor for the plantings, amounting to an over a million dollar investment in the city.
Westfield also received $20,000 in direct support of the program, which can be used for stump grinding or preparing sidewalks for plantings. Hathaway said the DCR has been working on this program in cities throughout Massachusetts over the last several years. “They’ve got their routine down really well. We’ll support them anyway we can,” Hathaway said.
Matthews-Kane said she is really happy about this project happening in Ward 3. She also has a friendly competition going with Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy on whose ward will have more trees planted.