Northampton to have first professional shade tree inventory

  • The city of Northampton is launching its first-ever professional inventory of public shade trees this fall. A report is expected to be ready in December. WikiCommons

  • A tree offers shade Oct. 14 to downtown Northampton. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY—Daily Hampshire Gazette

  • A tree offers shade Friday to downtown Northampton. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff

For the Gazette
Published: 10/14/2016 3:21:59 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city is moving forward with its first-ever professional inventory of public shade trees, which will be the foundation for a comprehensive urban forestry plan to improve the future of Northampton’s tree canopy.

The $74,650 project will be funded using a $30,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and $44,650 in matching funds that the Northampton City Council unanimously approved in the spring.

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said the inventory is necessary to get an in-depth look at what actions the city should take toward restoring its forestry.

“We need to make informed budgetary decisions about what we need to do to invest properly in our public shade tree canopy, and this inventory will give us that information,” Narkewicz said.

The city hired Davey Resource Group of Kent, Ohio, to have five of its arborists conduct the inventory. The mayor says it will begin in the next few weeks, and is scheduled to conclude in November.

The certified arborists will survey city streets, parks and cemeteries, only stepping onto private property to complete brief tree assessments where they may measure a tree’s diameter or view its canopy.

Davey Resource Group will collect data such as location, species, size, and signs of disease or infestation as they examine the city’s 11,000 public shade trees. The group will also identify 2,000 planting spots for new public shade trees.

Their findings will be compiled into a summary analysis and report that will be submitted in December. Northampton tree warden Richard Parasiliti will then work with the Public Shade Tree Commission to develop the city’s first urban forestry plan based on the report.

The mayor said that establishing this plan is a crucial step toward protecting the trees that offer Northampton beauty, shade, water mitigation and a positive environmental impact.

“Northampton prides itself on being forward thinking and planning for the future … and shade trees really are a critical natural resource for the city, so it’s incumbent upon us to responsibly plan how to maintain that master resource,” the mayor said.

Parasiliti will maintain and update the inventory using the Davey Resource Group’s Tree Keeper Urban Forestry Management Software and the data is expected to tie in to Northampton’s current geographic information database and asset inventory.

“The trees will be considered an asset, similar to a fire hydrant, catch basin or manhole cover,” Parasiliti said.

He noted that a wide variety of data will be captured in the database, including a tree’s species, size, condition and needs, among other features.

“It will identify trees that are at greater risk of failure,” Parasiliti said, noting that the database will also assign an overall value to the city’s trees.“We’ll actually have a value of how much they are worth,” he said.

The inventory was suggested by both Parasiliti and the Northampton Public Shade Tree Commission.

The job of tree warden and the commission were established in 2014 when Narkewicz led a reorganization under the new city charter. Since then, the mayor said people involved in the city’s forestry have made him proud with their efforts.

According to him, they have quadrupled the average number of trees planted annually prior to 2015, introducing 160 trees into the city’s soil in the last year.

“I’m grateful to our tree warden and the volunteers on the commission for all the work they’ve done to date, and all the work they will do with this new information provided to them,” he said.

Once completed, the shade tree database is expected to be available for the public to review in a read-only format, Parasiliti said.

Narkewicz said he anticipates a positive reaction from the public. City residents have already offered to volunteer for projects the Public Shade Tree Commission has done, and offered their yards for tree planting, reflecting their enthusiasm, he said.

Anyone with questions about the shade-tree inventory initiative may contact Parasiliti at 587-1570, ext. 4317.

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