East Boston is about to get greener and cleaner thanks to local environmental group Tree Eastie. For a couple of years now Tree Eastie has been trying to rekindle the neighborhood’s grassroots effort to get more trees planted in Eastie.
With funding provided by the East Boston Foundation, Mass DCR and BPDA, Tree Eastie is launching several programs this fall to improve Eastie’s tree canopy which, at 8 percent, is the lowest in the City of Boston.
Tree Eastie’s Bill Masterson said this week that after a year of negotiation, the City of Boston and Tree Eastie have entered into an agreement allowing Tree Eastie to plant street trees in some of the neighborhood’s empty tree wells.
The group has prioritized planting in densely populated areas with heat islands, and has identified 12 initial sites on Eagle Hill. The first dozen trees will be planted from October 16-18, with additional trees to be planted in 2022.
This marks the first time the city has allowed a “friends” group to plant street trees.
“We have worked hard to build our credibility with the city and have developed a strong mutually beneficial relationship with Boston Parks and Recreation,” said Masterson.
Residents can volunteer to dig holes or plant trees by reaching out to [email protected].
Tree Eastie will also be planting nine new fruit trees at The Rockies Urban Wild during October. Each year the fall harvest will be distributed throughout the neighborhood in partnership with Eastie Farm. “Trees are a miracle solution to many problems from urban heat island effect to poor air quality to climate change,” said Eastie Farm Director Kannan Thiruvengadam. “When we all plant or adopt a tree, together we create a safe, green, clean, and healthy community for ourselves. Eastie Farm is proud to be working with Tree Eastie on this worthy campaign.”
Last summer Tree Eastie partnered with Eastie Farm to bring rain barrels to Eastie residents. Some of the barrels sold to residents at a discounted price were used by those who adopted a tree through Tree Eastie’s Adopt-a-Tree program, developed in conjunction with Boston Parks and Recreation Department and Speak for the Trees. New trees require 20 gallons of water per week to ensure they survive the first two years.
Funds collected from rain barrel purchase were used to fund future environmental programs in Eastie, like planting more trees in the community. Recently, hang tags with QR codes were placed on all recently planted trees, allowing residents to link to a site where they can sign up to water a tree in their neighborhood. So far, more than 50 Eastie residents have adopted over 75 street trees.
Another focus of the group this fall and winter will be to work more closely with developers to ensure trees are incorporated into their plans as well as to better educate residents on the benefits provided by trees. Noise and air pollution from Logan Airport have long plagued East Boston residents. Posing additional threats are increased traffic and storm surges. Trees serve as natural mitigation by filtering the air, absorbing sound and soaking up storm water.
A few years back, Tree Eastie received a grant of $10,000 to plant more trees in Eastie and also partnered with East Boston’s Neighborhood of Affordable Housing’s (NOAH) youth on their tree canopy project.
Tree Eastie and NOAH worked in cooperation to document open tree pits, care for street trees, and get new trees planted in the neighborhood.
The NOAH youth define the tree canopy as street trees or trees that line the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. The youth have been working to gather information and data on the tree canopy and now are starting to plant these new trees throughout Eastie.
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 the NOAH youth point to is a 4,980 foot stretch of Maverick Street from the Maverick Gate near the airport to Maverick Square. The problem there is that there are only 17 trees, or nine percent of the possible 199 trees that could potentially line the street.
“This program is more important than ever,” said City of Boston Tree Warden Max Ford-Diamond. “Boston had two heat waves this summer, so the youngest and most vulnerable trees really needed that extra water and care to reach maturity and provide much needed shade to residents.” Newly planted trees need about 20 gallons of water a week to survive and thrive, even more during summertime droughts.
The Adopt-a-Tree Program was piloted in East Boston and will eventually be rolled out to other neighborhoods based on its success. Anyone interested in adopting a tree can go to map.treeboston.org to find a map of street trees to adopt in their neighborhood.
Residents interested in caring for East Boston’s tree canopy are encouraged to join Tree Eastie or sign up for the group’s newsletter by emailing [email protected].