‘I’m not a limelight person’: Northampton’s Rich Parasiliti wins tree warden of the year

  • Richard Parasiliti, superindendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, works to determine if a section of trees on Bridge Road are public shade trees or private. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superindendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the city of Northampton, works to determine if a section of trees on Bridge Road are public shade trees or private. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superindendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, talks with resident Sandy Jaescke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, works to determine if a section of trees on Bridge Road are public shade trees or private. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, works to determine if a section of trees on Bridge Road are public shade trees or private. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, tags trees on Bridge Road. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, tags trees on Bridge Road. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, looks over a map with resident Sandy Jaescke. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Richard Parasiliti, superintendent and tree warden for the Forest, Parks and Cemeteries Division of the City of Northampton, tags trees on Bridge Road. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2019 11:28:21 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Richard Parasiliti is tree warden of the year, and it’s a distinction he’s still getting used to.

“It’s very overwhelming for me,” he said. “I’m not a limelight person.”

Parasiliti recieved the 18th annual Seth H. Swift Tree Warden of the Year award from the Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association at its annual conference earlier this month. He pointed to the award as “the accumulation of a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” noting the efforts of volunteers, city officials, state officials and other employees of the Department of Public Works.

For the past four years, Parasiliti has served as Northampton’s tree warden. As forestry superintendent, he also heads the Forestry, Parks and Cemetery division of the city’s DPW.

Parasiliti was nominated for the award by Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz.

“It was well-deserved,” said the mayor.

It is a tradition that the person who receives the annual award is given it as a surprise, and this year was no different.

“I did not know I was going to get this award,” Parasiliti said, though he knew something was up when he saw the mayor at the Sturbridge-based conference.

In addition to Narkewicz, other supporters in attendance were Northampton DPW Director Donna LaScaleia, Public Shade Tree Commission Chair Lilly Lombard and members Jen Werner, Todd Ford, and Robert Postel, as well as Parasiliti’s wife, Romy Moser.

“I’m very humbled,” Parsiliti said.

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture, Parasiliti had to take an arborculture class to graduate, and he said the experience shaped him.

“I never forgot how important trees were to the environment,” he said.

Parasiliti’s interest in trees eventually led him to take an exam to become a ceritifed arborist; he admitted he flunked the first time before passing in 2014.

When Narkewicz established the Public Shade Tree Commision, he had been interested in appointing a member of the DPW as tree warden, and Parasiliti got the job.

“He was sort of the natural choice,” said Narkewicz.

Parasiliti said that, before he assumed the role, there hadn’t been a tree warden in Northampton for a while, and though the city enjoyed a healthy tree canopy and cover, tree work wasn’t done in an organized fashion.

“Our tree work was literally just rectionary,” he said.

Asked about the dividends the organized approach has yielded, Parasiliti pointed to a $30,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2016 to fund a professional tree inventory, which was completed later that year.

“We have a baseline now of what our tree inventory looks like,” he said.

He also noted the activity of Tree Northampton, which plants upwards of 300 trees a year.

“They are phenomenal,” he said.

Although Tree Northampton existed prior to Parasiliti’s appointment, Robert Postel, one of its founders, said the tree warden’s tenure has energized it.

In addition to managing the city’s full-time tree crew, Parasiliti has a close working relationship with the city’s Public Shade Tree Commission and coordinates Tree Northampton volunteers in their efforts planting trees around the city.

The city provides Tree Northampton with trees, water and guidance, and Postel noted that in the past volunteers had delivered trees via bicycle.

Of Parasiliti’s involvement, Postel said, “We could not have done this without his very careful nurturing of the relationship.”

Parasiliti also praised the actions of the Public Shade Tree Commission, including the neighborhood tree-planting model, a competitive application in which the winning neighborhood receives tree plantings.

Parasiliti grew up in Enfield, Connecticut and has worked for the Northampton DPW for 29 years. After graduating from Stockbridge, a professor told him that Northampton was looking for a grounds foreman. The rest is history.

“I do have a really great job,” Parasiliti said, adding that urban foresty is where his “true heart is.” “Rich cares about every tree, passionately,” Postel said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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