Officials Set Goals to Increase Tree Canopy

Tree Eastie, an organization that has been trying to rekindle the neighborhood’s grassroots effort to get more trees planted in the neighborhood, has been working with NOAH (Neighborhood of Affordable Housing) youth over the past year 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. 

Last week Mayor Martin Walsh and the Boston Parks and Recreation Department announced that the city will partner with Tree Eastie and other local groups across the city to find a consultant and partner that can help create an equitable vision for the protection and expansion of the City’s tree canopy.

The city recently put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking this partner and consultant. 

Walsh said the selected consultant will support a transparent planning process that recognizes and supports communities like Eastie that have been disproportionately exposed to environmental stressors.

The planning process will include collaboration with key departments, agencies and partners like Tree Eastie that have a role in the protection or expansion of Boston’s tree canopy.

“As we plan for our city’s future, we’re working to ensure Boston is an equitable, safe city for all residents,” said Mayor Walsh. “We know how critical trees are as we fight climate change and improve the quality of life for all residents. This urban forest plan is the first of its kind in Boston, and is an opportunity to ensure every neighborhood has the resources they deserve and need. Boston is committed to strengthening our environmental work, and creating a brighter, greener future for all.”

Tree Eastie recently 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. 

The NOAH youth define the tree canopy as street trees or trees that line the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. These youths have been working to gather information and data on the tree canopy and now are starting to plant these new trees throughout Eastie.

Over 70 trees were planted last year and another 40 trees are slated to be planted this year.

Using Google Earth the NOAH Youth mapped and marked every tree in the neighborhood. They counted the number of trees per street and calculated how many trees could possibly fit on any given street. Studies show that ideally for a good urban tree canopy there is 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.

An example that the NOAH youth point to is a 4,980 foot stretch of Maverick Street from the Maverick Gate near the airport to Maverick Square where there are only 17 trees, or nine percent of the possible 199 trees that could potentially line the street.

The NOAH youth said trees naturally absorb pollution and could reduce urban noise by 6 to 15 decibels. The NOAH Youth plan to increase tree coverage in Eastie to 30 percent thus doubling the current tree canopy coverage.

Alongside the City, Tree Eastie will work with the picked partner and apply an environmental justice lens throughout the entire  process of creating a 20-year “Urban Forest Plan”. 

“As an environmental justice community, we know that East Boston residents are disproportionately affected by coastal flooding due to sea level rise,” said Bill Masterson, Founder and Executive Director of Tree Eastie. “Planning for the future of our City’s trees is an important part of a holistic approach for resilient communities.”

Working with the selected partner Tree Eastie will help the city develop strategies to promote growth, longevity, and protection of Boston’s urban canopy over the next 20 years. Understanding where canopy loss is happening is the first step in addressing these issues through policy, including guidelines for tree canopy protection on public, private, and institutional property.

“Mayor Walsh’s FY21 budget provided a clear path forward with new funding for an urban forest plan and the staff to implement it,’ said Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “The Boston Parks and Recreation Department will continue to care for Boston’s trees, and this plan represents a huge step toward proactive canopy stewardship.”

In addition to the $500,000 budgeted for the Urban Forest Plan, historic investments in public spaces this year will also support the hiring of a new arborist and the planting of an additional 1,000 trees, doubling the yearly total to 2,000 trees planted per year.

The Urban Forest Plan and RFP builds on the Walsh Administration’s work to combat climate change, and advance strategies to mitigate carbon mitigation. 

This initiative aims to increase resilience to major flooding events, while also increasing access and open space area along the waterfront. 

Coastal resilience plans are about to enter a second phase for Eastie and Charlestown and other coastal resilience plans are to be announced soon for Downtown, the North End, and Dorchester. 

The RFP was released on Monday, September 28 and proposals are due by October 28, 2020 at 12:00 p.m. Respondents can submit digitally via a secure FTP site or via hard copy. Detailed submission instructions, including alternative means of digital submission can be found in Section 8.2 of the Request for Proposals. Applicants can view the advertisement for this RFP on the Bids and RFPs webpage. The RFP is being managed by the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department. All questions or communications should be made to the RFP contact, Maggie Owens, by phone at 617-961-3025 or email at  [email protected] A virtual Information Session will be held on Thursday, October 8. Please register by 3PM on October 8 via Eventbrite at bit.ly/urban-forest-plan.

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