Volunteers branch out to conduct Easthampton’s first tree inventory 

  • Easthampton Tree Warden Sarah Greenleaf, far left, works with two student volunteers from Wilbraham & Monson Academy, Nina Lau, 18, top left, and Delaney Johnson, 17, right, to collect data on a sample of an American elm tree during Easthampton’s shade trees during a tree inventory event on Saturday, April 2. STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOWDelaney Johnson, 17, a student at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, measures an oak tree during a tree inventory event in Easthampton on Saturday, April 2.    STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOWEasthampton Tree Warden Sarah Greenleaf assesses the condition of an oak tree that's grown through fencing on Lyman Avenue as part of the city's first-ever tree inventory event on Saturday, April 2.    STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2022 12:08:10 PM
Modified: 4/3/2022 12:07:30 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The city is on its way to gaining a better understanding of its public shade trees after more than 40 volunteers branched out into the downtown to begin examining them on Saturday morning.

As part of their inspection, volunteers cataloged the size, species and overall condition of 200 public shade trees in Easthampton’s urban residential neighborhoods and commercial center. The tree inventory event was the first of its kind for the city, according to Department of Public Works Director Greg Nuttelman. 

Volunteers gathered outside of the Municipal Building at 9 a.m. to get their maps and team assignments before they were split into 13 groups. Each group was led by team captains, which included the city’s Tree Warden Sarah Greenleaf, who also works for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation in the Greening the Gateway Cities program; Bob Alrich, an arborist and owner of Northampton-based Warner Tree Service; retired arborist Jay Girard; Nick Brazee, a plant pathologist for the University of Massachusetts Amherst; and Yoni Glogower, director of Conservation and Sustainability for the city of Holyoke. 

The event came together through a collaborative effort between the DPW, Greenleaf and Lilly Lombard of Northampton. 

Eight years ago, Lombard, a longtime climate activist, connected with the state's community and urban forester, Mollie Freilicher, and worked together to lead an all-volunteer tree inventory in Northampton. The inventory event found that Northampton has “nearly 10,000 public shade trees worth $16 million, providing $1.3 million yearly in energy savings, carbon sequestration, stormwater mitigation, and property value increase.” Those efforts led to adopting a comprehensive municipal shade tree program and investing significant funding into reforesting Northampton’s streets and strengthening its climate resilience, she said.  

Lombard, who is an arboriculture student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is currently in a class that requires its students to create a sample survey and management plan. The first step in the successful management of an urban forest is performing a tree inventory, she said. 

“I didn’t simply want to do an academic exercise. I wanted something that would make a real impact,” she said. “So, I reached out to Easthampton’s DPW and their new tree warden.”

The event also included four staff member volunteers and 19 students from Wilbraham & Monson Academy like 18-year-old Nina Lau. A native of Hong Kong, Lau is a member of the school’s Community Service Team, an extracurricular group that donates their time performing service-related activities at soup kitchens and food pantries in the region, and raises awareness and funding for causes. 

“I really like being able to help others and the community,” she said.

Lau joined fellow student, 17-year-old Delaney Johnson, and Greenleaf on a data collection hunt near Lyman Avenue. With guidance from Greenleaf, Johnson and Lau identified and assessed the health of trees, and input data into a software tool called i-Tree. The software includes a suite of several apps that focus on the benefits of urban trees that was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.  

Easthampton’s public shade trees are located along roadways and can be found in tree pits, like those along Union and Cottage streets, and in tree belts, like the large maples and hickories along the Park Street sidewalk. They also exist along the edge of private properties where they meet the road or sidewalk. State law governs the preservation and activities of public shade trees throughout Massachusetts. 

Shade trees help cool things down, said Greenleaf. They also help mitigate the “urban heat island effect,” which takes place when natural vegetation is replaced with pavement, buildings or other heat-retaining surfaces. 

Urban canopy loss can lead to higher energy costs and air pollution levels, said Lombard. 

Other positive effects of  trees are mitigating stormwater runoff, providing habitat for pollinators, buffering the impact of  wind and noise, storing carbon, and offering important aesthetic value. 

“The best way to convince a city to invest in trees is to demonstrate the value of them in terms of the services they provide … You can’t value what you have unless you know what you have,” she said. “I wanted to take that success model (that we had in Northampton) to Easthampton.”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

 


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