Michael Coughlin Jr.
Tree Eastie, a non-profit organization that focuses on planting and maintaining trees while educating residents about their benefits, has been doing its part in an effort to increase East Boston’s scarce tree canopy.
East Boston’s tree canopy sits at 7% – the lowest in the City of Boston – which is woeful considering the average is 27%.
“We need a lot more trees. We’ve got a lot of heat islands, and because of the effects of the highways and the airport and also the flooding that we get along the coastline, we need a lot of trees just from an environmental standpoint,” said Tree Eastie Founder Bill Masterson.
Not only do trees help environmental aspects like reducing air pollution, but they can cool down streets, filter stormwater, and even increase property value, according to Tree Eastie.
That being said, the non-profit is doing its best to increase the neighborhood’s tree canopy and has had great success as they have planted 164 street trees over the last 15 months, a number Masterson is proud of.
“That’s a big number … these are small trees. I mean, they’re only probably 10 or 12 feet tall, but, I mean, they’re going to grow two to three feet a year, and fast forward 10 years from now, there’s going to be a lot of shade,” said Masterson.
One of the main reasons Tree Eastie was able to plant that many trees was due to its relatively new and strong relationship with the City of Boston. In negotiations that took place for about a year, the non-profit was able to secure an agreement with the city to be allowed to plant street trees.
Not only was the non-profit’s agreement with the city integral in planting over 160 trees in the neighborhood but so was the work of its volunteers.
“The volunteers are the ones – they’re the boots on the ground, and if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be planting all the trees that we’re planting,” said Masterson.
Although the actual planting of trees around East Boston is important, an equally significant aspect is the maintenance of those new and existing trees. A fun way residents can be a part of the maintenance process is through Tree Eastie’s Adopt-a-Tree program.
The program asks residents with trees near their homes within three years of being planted to sign up and water them. “We’ve had a good response to that,” said Masterson.
While it is winter and Tree Eastie is sort of in its “off-season,” that does not mean the organization has stopped working. Volunteers are still working hard on writing for grants, updating the website, and more.
Along with that work, Tree Eastie is also focusing on some future initiatives that will help it get more trees around East Boston.
One of those initiatives is an outreach campaign to developers with small to mid-sized development plans to ask them to add and preserve street trees within their building plans.
“This is an ask that we’re making of the developers that if you are going to be burdening the neighborhood with additional traffic or construction that they’re going to have to put up with for a year – do something nice for the neighborhood,” said Masterson.
“All in to them, the cost of a tree is about $1,000, which is a rounding error when you think about putting up a $2 million building.”
Other initiatives include educational literature like newsletters being crafted as a tool to help residents better understand the importance and benefits of trees in the neighborhood.
Even though Tree Eastie has made some outstanding progress and has a great base of volunteers, the non-profit is always looking for more people to get involved.
Residents who want to learn more about Tree Eastie’s programs, the benefits of trees or want to get involved can visit https://treeeastie.org/ or email [email protected]
Also, residents should be sure to keep an eye out on neighborhood association meeting agendas as spring approaches to learn more, as Tree Eastie will be making the rounds.
“They say the best time to plant a tree was 40 years ago, and the second best time is now. So is it going to be an overnight change? No, but you got to start somewhere and then just continue on with the mission,” said Masterson.