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As developers keep cutting down trees, Boston hires consultants to figure out how to build up city's tree canopy

Boston announced yesterday it's hired a landscape architecture firm and a forestry consultant to develop an "urban forestry plan" aimed at increasing the number of trees in the city.

Stoss Landscape Urbanism of Boston and Urban Canopy Works of Goshen, KY will compile a "20-year plan will set citywide goals for canopy protection, be responsive to climate change and development, and enhance the quality of life for all Bostonians," with the aid of local residents and groups, the mayor's office says, adding efforts will be particularly strong in "communities that have been disproportionately impacted by environmental stressors." The announcement of the $500,000 planning effort continues:

Over the past five years, tree removals on residential, private, and institutional property have been the main contributors to canopy loss.

Then City Councilor Ayanna Pressley began pressing for more trees in 2018 as she watched developers buzz-saw trees to make way for all those new buildings.

Boston 2020 tree canopy assessment.
Speak for the Trees, Boston.

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creating problems that we than have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

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Does Boston really need to hire some company from Kentucky to help out with what we already know? We need the trees now more than ever for the health of the city and the environment.

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Who does Marty owe in Kentucky?

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Living in a city is complicated. The problem along Melnea Cass Blvd highlights the need for planning. The is a save the trees campaign in Charlestown. I don't know if planning would prevent this situation, but just going around planting trees without a plan is going to do less well.

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Are 40 years old.

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For instance, a lot of urban planners in the 50s thought a tree from Australia looked neat, and now, well...

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Other urban planners thought that planting trees from China with tight branch angles in icy, snowy climates was a good idea, too.

They also thought these trees wouldn't bear messy fruit and didn't even consider their invasive capabilities, or their utility-damaging collapsing branches.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/opinion/the-ups-and-downs-of-the-brad...
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-02/bradford-pears-threat...

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Sometimes in the morning Magoo will go outside and watch and listen to the squirrels run around and around tree trunks playing chase. Magoo calls this the Squirrel Shuffle Trunk. Magoo.

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I can't even anymore

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... to be able to block posters and never have to even see their posts.

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Seems like an expensive plan. How many trees could you plant for $500,000?

In addition to the $500,000 budgeted for the Urban Forest Plan, historic investments in our 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.

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A formal plan would be good. Also, you'll need to pay lawyers to figure out how to insert language in the city zoning code that requires developers to plant a minimum of X trees per square foot of development and/or replace all the trees they tear down with new ones, and not just tiny baby trees that will take 30 years to leaf up as much as the trees they replace.

Whether that's worth $500,000, I don't know, but didn't Walsh commit early on in his administration to plant lots more trees and then, um, didn't? Or am I just imagining that?

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he did. so did Menino in this last years before Walsh. And yet our tree canopy keeps shrinking. Complete failure on this issue in Boston.

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Well, he inherited the Menino plan, which I really don't know how anyone could have ever thought would happen. 100,000 trees from 2010 to 2020. Based on what I'm seeing from this new initiative, the city has been doing 1,000 trees per year. There's no feasible growth curve I can imagine that starts at 1,000 per year over 10 years and reaches 100,000 total.

https://www0.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/06/09/city-fails-promise-plant-t...

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Oh stop it, every mayor gets an inhertitance. It comes with the job.

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It's odd, but sometimes planting a larger tree instead of a smaller one backfires.

Replanting shocks a tree's roots. It will take a larger tree much longer to recover and start growing again—if it recovers—than a smaller tree. A smaller tree, with a smaller root system, will recover and start growing again sooner. It may outgrow a larger tree of the same species that was planted at the same time.

For many species there's an optimal size for planting of around 3-1/2" to 4" caliper (trunk diameter measured at 6" above the soil for a young tree). These are decent-looking saplings but they won't provide much shade or canopy for a while. Planting bigger trees is possible, but they are expensive and need a lot of care and watering to survive, and that isn't how it works around Boston.

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I've seen a few recently planted trees perish because they weren't watered during hot summer weather. A complete waste of the money they cost and the labor needed to plant them. The city absolutely needs a comprehensive plan so resources are used appropriately.

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It's here, listed as "Strategy 8.5." I wonder how many other parts of this alleged plan remain undone? https://www.boston.gov/sites/default/files/embed/2/20161207_outlineofact...

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Thank you! Finally a step to improve the mental health of all humans of all ages who live here. Being exposed to nature works wonders. Physical health, too. Thank you! YES.

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...but also just start planting some.

Walk down Hyde Park Ave and see plenty of barren plots along the sidewalk. Just plop a tree already, or at least pave it over properly so it doesn't look like a 3rd world roadway.

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Plant a tree movement. Especially in poor neighborhoods. I'm sure there's a way to do it without having to go through all the red tape.

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.....After hearing complaints we have decided to hire a consultant to study how we came to the conclusion we needed a plan to plant trees and why it was so expensive , it will cost 750 thousand dollars and the report should be finished in 6 months. Stay tuned.

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  1. City cuts down dying sidewalk tree
  2. A year later city comes by and plants a dead tree
  3. After 6 months city agrees tree is dead, but it was guaranteed
  4. a year later dead tree is replaced
  5. 50% chance of repeating said cycle
  6. Even if tree lived, they are tending to be low-leaf trees

Then there are times the city bricks up a tree pit rather than replacing the tree - guess that is easier.

So when we can't manage what we have, what is this plan going to tell them to do?

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The remedy for mutilated urbanism.

Kunstler TED Talk

This is an insightful comment, John. Sticking some crappy half-dead tree in a little box in the sidewalk is a pitiful plan, failed from conception. No decent tree will actually grow there; where you see fabulous trees coming out of the sidewalk holes, they were there first, and now they're destroying the sidewalk piled on top of their roots and will end up being executed for that crime.

Solutions sometimes cause more problems - we can't do that thing where new buildings have to be set back from the street so a nature band-aid can be plonked in front of them. That's just mutilated urbanism. Either we tear up the asphalt on some streets and make them linear parks with bike/pedestrian lanes, or we stop pretending.

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It's more a matter of whether whomever planted the tree chose a species with the type of root system that's less likely to fuck up the sidewalk and the nearby basements, and checked whether the ground underneath is soil that the roots will tap into, or solid rock that leads the roots to press the sidewalk upwards even in a type of tree that wouldn't usually have that problem. (If there's a rock issue, there are still types of shrubs and other greenery that could be planted rather than the city's preferred practice of just not planting.)

We have mature trees in our neighborhood that are not as old as the homes on the street (1840s-1890s). They are older than the sidewalks, but sidewalks don't last as long as trees regardless. One of the arborists from the city told me that the main issue with the trees that are getting removed after 30 years and replaced (which then brings on complaints from residents) is people choosing the wrong type of tree (including people from the city, since some projects don't include appropriate consultation with arborist/landscape folks and literally are done based on "my buddy can get us a good deal on 20 trees"). Some of these have root systems that are just going to fuck up everything within 15 feet of it after a certain age.

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The natural gas company doesn't fix its leaks, and the methane displaces oxygen from the soil and kills the trees. Can't fix that by planting a new tree.

Road salt doesn't help, of course.

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Eliminate off-street parking minimums so that we get trees instead of asphalt.

Plant trees in every empty tree pit across the City -- There are many.

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..... eliminate on street parking. Plant trees in those spots instead.

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Where would all the Uber snd Lyft drivers park?

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They'd just park on the tree. I haven't noticed much of anything stopping them from parking somewhere.

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How about tearing down a bunch of those empty office buildings in the financial district and around south station, and replace them with trees.

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Sea level rise would do a lot of them in.

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... seems to be just a couple of arborists working out of their homes. We had to go all the way to Kentucky to find that? Why not just hire someone local?

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1. Don't let developers cut down trees of a certain age or girth or importance to the canopy.
2. Make developers pay for all trees they do remove. Make sure it's enough money to pay for new trees.
3. Pool that fee to plant replacements.
4. Get Markey's Sunrise Movement involved to write a tree canopy plan. Environmentalists can get a whole lotta mileage out of half a million bucks.

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One of the laws should be that they can't clear-cut an entire lot to build their stuff (then plant a few very young trees). Require that an arborist consult with the developer and let them know which mature trees they should leave that are unlikely to cause root damage or fallen branches.

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is the first step in developing a tree ordinance for the City.

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Somerville passed an ordinance a couple years ago requiring all trees with a diameter at breast height of (I think) 6 inches to be preserved unless an approved plan is filed with the city. There are provisions for dangerous trees, invasive species, etc. and the paperwork looks pretty minimal, but they still have to approve any cutting of these larger trees. It's pretty great, and I hope Boston gets something like that.

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Within a 3 mile radius of downtown, there aren't that many space suitable left to grow a sizable tree that's more than 15' feet from a building. Sure, the large single family lots South of the City have more space, but these parts are more suburb than city and they are already quite leafy.

A great location to plant trees in the city and far enough from buildings would be would be where the (mostly free) street parking is currently located. I would be all for it, but in our car-centric culture, removing free or cheap parking for a greater public benefit is very much an uphill battle. Most people are all for more trees, until one suggests planting one where they store their car that is. Just another item to be filled under the "High cost of free parking".

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Boston has an amazing Parks and Recreation Department that can "plan the tree canopy".

Why is City of Boston funds going to a company from Kentucky?

Why can't Boston do Boston?

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Thanks for bringing this to folks attention. I imagine a large part of the fee will also be spent on taking an inventory of the current street trees.

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I can see it now “save the trees” program where each neighborhood fights for trees to be planted.

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I can see the email coming from the City saying " Due to the high demand for trees, and limited resources, you the taxpaying property owners and registered voters of the City of Boston are not eligible for a trees. Your street will not get any trees. The trees are prioritized for the non profit, health, education and poverty industry who's insatiable needs are more important than the quality of life of you the taxpaying property owners and registered voters of the City of Boston and all your neighbors. The CEO, CFO of said nonprofits and their paid for political toadies, (who know somebody in red state Kentucky) will continue to pillage your city.

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It doesn't matter how many new trees are planted if old ones are not cared for and if anti idling laws are not enforced

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I hope that the issue of natural gas leaks killing trees is not overlooked. Gas leaking from our creaky 125 year old infrastructure displaces air in the soil and kills trees. This is a big deal in some areas of the city

https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2020/dead-urban-trees-point-to-gas-...

And we’ve known about it for a while: here’s a 10 year old article:
https://www.npr.org/2011/11/21/142504812/bostons-leaky-gas-lines-may-be-...

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Walsh's BPDA could have required developers to keep trees on the many sites they are building on, most of these projects required variances. He has been the mayor for seven years. His staff felt free hold up Boston Calling permits over union hires, how about a little bit of save the trees?

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"As developers keep cutting down trees .."

Fact check?

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This falls under "common knowledge" as far as I'm concerned; pretty much every time I've seen a house sold, the developer cuts down most or all of the trees on the property to make it easier for the work crews to come in and revamp the house (or tear it down and build a new one).

If you want sources, you can look into the history of why Somerville passed a tree ordinance -- it had to do with developers pulling this shit. In fact, as soon as there was even rumor of Somerville looking to introduce this ordinance, several developers *preemptively* cut down all the trees on their properties. They had to pass an emergency ban on tree cutting while the details for the more permanent ordinance were hammered out.

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As long as we are looking ahead, why not take a small part of some of our public and
private land and put apple trees on them. It will help (in a small way) to bring fresh fruit
to our many food pantries. There is a successful program doing this in Portland.
portlandfruit.org

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and other soil contaminants such as cadmium, or various troublesome metals that come off in brake dust. It's really hard to find good information on heavy metal uptake in various parts of plants. Fruits *tend* to be safe enough, even in moderate-lead soil, especially if they're farther off the ground. But the data is really lacking, plants vary (some even accumulate lead in their seeds or other parts as a defense), and there's a lot of soil chemistry (pH, organic material, chelators) that makes it hard to generalize.

...and Boston has pretty bad lead levels in a lot of places.

Fruit trees also produces a lot of windfalls that then create a mess or feed the rats, and while that's not a major concern in my book, it does create some opposition you'll need to account for.

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Apple trees require pruning and pesticides, or they stop producing edible fruit. Somebody has to pick up the fallen fruit, or it becomes a messy nuisance and a magnet for yellowjackets, who dig nests in the ground under the trees. They love to eat into the fallen apples, further spoiling them, and are aggressively hostile to humans.

I wish Portland all success, but I wonder who would provide the care the trees require in Boston.

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At least half a mill spent toward figuring out how to put more trees in the city may result in a material improvement in the city. That expenditure contrasted against the $750,000 the BRA spent to come up with a new name, new letterhead and new door signs at least has the potential of being money well spent.

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In the blocks surrounded by Morton Street, Blue Hill Avenue, Woolson Street and Norfolk Street. I believe it was back in the 1980's when the city cut them all down because they had grown so large the roots were deforming the sidewalks. They never did plant any replacements. I doubt they ever will.

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https://www.change.org/p/protect-charlestown-s-tree-canopy-pctc?

These are not abstract issues, but events happening now. Please review, sign, and share the above petition.

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Volunteering through work, I took part in a tree census of Boston. NYC does a tree census every 10 years with volunteers. I did my neighborhood in Hyde Park, measuring trees and checking leaves and for damage. I don't know if this was finished but we don't even know how many trees are in Boston.

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