By John Lynds
Back in the mid-1970s the Boston Globe featured an article about the late Anna DeFronzo’s quest to get more trees planted in East Boston when Kevin White was Mayor. DeFronzo, a longtime community activist told stories of her youth and walking under the bent branches of tree-lined streets instead of just seeing cars and cement.
More than forty years ago Eastie had a serious lack of trees and shade on many streets. Despite efforts by the White Administration in 1975 to plant nearly 500 trees in Eagle Hill and Jeffries Point, the neighborhood’s overall tree canopy is only 15 percent of what it could be.
However, a group of concerned teens are trying to rekindle the neighborhood’s grassroots effort to get more trees planted in Eastie.
At Monday night’s Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) meeting, NOAH’s Environmental and Community Building Youth Crew members Michael Passareillo told members that he and other Youth Crew members have launched an effort to bring awareness to Eastie’s lack of street trees and want to double our tree canopy coverage in Eastie.
“This has been our pet project for the summer,” said Passariello. “We’ve been working to try and improve the East Boston tree canopy. We define the tree canopy as street trees or trees that line the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. Working since the fall to gather information and data on the tree canopy and now we are ready to start some action.”
Using Google Earth the Youth Crew mapped and market every tree in the neighborhood.
“We counted the number of trees per street and calculated how many trees could possibly fit on any given street,” said Passariello. “Studies show that ideally for a good urban tree canopy there is a tree every 20 to 25 feet.”
The Youth Crew found there were 1,924 trees in Eastie and over 300,000 linear feet of sidewalk space.
“On average there is a tree every 167 feet,” said Passariello. “If a tree was planted every 25 feet we could have over 12,500 trees in Eastie.”
An example the Youth Crew showed was a 4,980 foot stretch of Maverick Street from the Maverick Gate near the airport to Maverick Square. The problem is there are only 17 trees, or nine percent of the possible 199 trees that could potentially line the street.
“Right now Eastie has only 15 percent of its possible tree canopy using that one tree for every 25 feet measurement ,” said Passareillo.
Passariello told the crowd that Eastie is missing out on the positive impacts a fully developed tree canopy could have on the health and well-being of residents.
“Trees cool things down by as much as nine degrees with street trees found to be most effective at reducing “heat islands”,” said Passareillo. “Trees provide more shade and cooler houses, which means less energy used and less money spent on cooling.”
Passareillo added that trees naturally absorb pollution and could reduce urban noise by six to 15 decibels.
The NOAH Youth Crew is now formulating a plan to Increase tree coverage in Eastie to 30 percent thus doubling the current tree canopy coverage.
“According to the University of Melbourne, cooling benefits from trees start at 30 percent tree coverage for an area,” said Passareillo. “This would mean adding almost 2,000 new trees to the area which we think with the help of residents and the city we can do.”
NOAH’s Environmental and Community Building Youth Crew member Michael Passareillo makes a case for more trees in Eastie during last week’s HVNA meeting.