It was a small win for local activists trying to increase East Boston’s tree canopy to improve the health and quality of life for residents.
At a recent tree removal hearing, the City of Boston’s Parks Department reviewed a developer’s request to remove two healthy street trees in front of their building at 202 Maverick Street.
The builder had petitioned the city to remove the trees to accommodate two bay-windows extending beyond the property line below.
After consideration, the city determined that the developer should have prioritized the existing trees before locating such an impactful building feature. With widespread community opposition to the removal of the old-growth trees, the developers were instructed to modify the building design so as not create a negative environmental impact.
“We are pleased the Parks Department recognizes the importance of our old-growth trees and hope that this sends a message to developers as they plan their projects.” said Lara Caralis of Eagle Hill Beautification. “As an Environmental Justice community, developers could actually do something positive for the neighborhood by setting their buildings back from the sidewalk to allow for landscaping or installing green walls and roofs in their design.”
Among the local groups speaking out against the tree removal were Mothers Out Front (MOF), Tree Eastie, Eastie Farm, AIR Inc., Eagle Hill Beautification, Friends of Belle Island Marsh, NOAH and Speak for the Trees. These groups have played an integral part in addressing environmental issues impacting our community.
In a letter cosigned by the group to Mayor Marty Wash and Environmental Chief Chris Cook, Sonja Tengblad of Mothers Out Front urged more communication between the BPDA and Boston’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
“There seems to be a lack of communication to ensure that development projects aren’t approved that would potentially harm mature, healthy urban trees,” she said. “We are very hopeful the city’s upcoming Urban Forestry Master Plan will address this lack of communication to ensure the preservation of our urban forest from development. Our kids have so much stacked against them: pollution from planes, cars and gas leaks, flood zones, and old school buildings with poor HVAC systems. We can’t afford to lose the few healthy, mature trees we have, nor can we wait forty or more years for young replacement trees to provide their benefits.”
For the past year Tree Eastie, with the help of Speak for Trees, has been teaming up with NOAH’s youth group and, more recently, Eastie Farm and MOF to document open tree pits, to care for street trees, and to get new trees planted in the neighborhood.
The collaboration has been part of a years-long effort to increase Eastie’s tree canopy and improve the health and beauty of the neighborhood.
In 2019, Tree Eastie and NOAH received a grant of $10,000 to plant more trees in Eastie. The project is an effort to bring awareness to Eastie’s lack of street trees with the goal of doubling the neighborhood’s tree canopy coverage. Over 70 trees were planted last year and another 40 trees are slated to be planted this year.
Studies show that a good urban tree canopy has a tree every 20 to 25 feet.
The NOAH youth 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. If a tree was planted every 25 feet Eastie could have over 12,500 trees.
Street trees naturally absorb pollution and can reduce urban noise by 6 to 15 decibels.
The topic of tree conservation has been a focus of other Environmental Justice communities in Boston. Up until recently, the city had planned to remove hundreds of mature trees as part of a road reconstruction project along Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury. However after an outpouring of community resistance, the city modified plans to keep the existing trees.
“The city does listen to resident’s growing concerns about the impact of climate change on our communities,” said Bill Masterson of Tree Eastie. “In many cases the city has been willing to collaborate with community groups to develop a better way forward.”
Masterson said Eastie’s environmental groups will continue to work with the city to address issues impacting the health of Eastie residents and will encourage developers to include trees in their plans while vowing to oppose those who plan to remove trees as part of their development. opment project on Maverick Street were recently saved by the city after local activists fought for their survival.