Massachusetts is expanding an initiative to reduce energy use in urban neighborhoods by planting trees. In western Massachusetts, the city of Chicopee is now a beneficiary of the program.
The “Greening the Gateway Cities Program” has a goal of increasing the urban tree canopy by 10 percent in selected neighborhoods in cities where age and a history of manufacturing has contributed to a loss of trees through the years.
At separate tree planting events in Revere and Chicopee, last month, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton said the state will spearhead tree planting efforts in the two cities.
" Chicopee was a community that was ready, willing and able. A lot of it is having the coordination available on the local level ( to qualify for the program)," he said.
Beaton touted the benefits of trees, which he said include cleaner air and water, reduced noise, and the beautification of neighborhoods. He said there are also studies that estimate how much homeowners can save in heating and cooling costs by having shade trees on their property.
If the program reaches the goal of a ten percent increase in urban tree canopy in the 26 Gateway Cities, once the trees reach maturity an average homeowner could save $230 a year, according to the state’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The program is in its infancy, with about 2,000 trees planted so far in Chelsea, Holyoke, and Fall River.
Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos said the city plans to match the state’s $10,000 grant and plant a total of 200 trees this year.
"In trying to enhance our community and way of life, clearly getting more shade, more beauty is important," said Kos. " We are so happy Chicopee can participate."
Over the last several years, Chicopee has lost mature trees to severe storms. Trees have also been removed throughout the city as a result of an extensive sewer and road reconstruction project. As a result, there is a lot of room for new trees, according to Chicopee Tree Warden Christopher Scott.
" We did a full citywide tree inventory two years ago, and two -thirds of our planting sites on the streets are available," he said.
Scott said the city plans to plant oaks, maples and some ornamentals. But, he said not everybody welcomes a new tree on their street.
" There is not a neighborhood you can go to without there being a story about ' the limb that fell on the car, or the tree that fell on the house', but programs like this can help change public opinion," he said.
The state program provides trees for planting on both public and private property. People interested in obtaining a tree can contact the Department of Conservation and Recreation.