Volunteers planted trees at an Earth Day observance in Springfield, Massachusetts today. The city is slowly recovering from the loss of thousands of trees during the June tornado and October snowstorm in 2011.
Thirty trees of various shade and ornamental species are being planted along a residential street in the densely populated lower Forest Park neighborhood to replace trees that had to be removed because of disease and decay. The tree planting is being done by the volunteer-run nonprofit ReGreen Springfield with a donation from Western Massachusetts Electric Company.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal was joined at the event by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, workers and volunteers including local high school students.
" This is an example of what can be done with the smallest of changes on a city street--more tree planting. Trees protect us from summer heat, from flooding and are helpful against global warming," said Neal.
As mayor of Springfield in the 1980’s Neal directed an aggressive tree planting program.
" And when you travel the city you can see them everywhere in their beauty."
Amid the rebuilding that followed the June 1, 2011 tornado the city made urban reforestation a priority. ReGreen Springfield was formed to lead the effort to plant new trees. The organization has received more than $1.2 million in grants and donations for tree planting.
Rick Harper, an urban forestry specialist at UMass Amherst, is a volunteer with ReGreen Springfield.
" This is Earth Day, so it is a great opportunity to be greening the environment. People love trees. Springfield has planted a lot of trees over the years since the tornado."
The U.S. Forest Service is in the second year of a five-year study to measure the impact of the urban reforestation effort in Springfield.
Springfield City Forester Ed Casey said more than 4,400 trees were planted in public spaces and another 1,400 trees on private property in the city’s tornado-ravaged neighborhoods.
"We have done most of the tree belts in the tornado zone. What we are doing is expanding out and looking at streets that are lacking trees and focusing on those."
Casey said the city is working with WMECo on an initiative to put the right tree in the right place—meaning trees that won’t touch power lines. The tree planting project started on Earth Day on Wilmont Street will make for more reliable electric service, according to Bob Coates, Vice President of Electric Field Operations at WMECo.
"Trees are the number one cause of outages. If the right trees are in place below the lines there is no impact to the electric infrastructure."
Mayor Sarno praised the partnership between WMECo and ReGreen Springfield.