Despite Tree City USA Honor
By Edward Shanahan
Each year, the city removes more dead or hazardous trees than it replaces, leaving a net decrease in the population of our mature shade trees.
Last year, for example, according to our records, the city planted a total of 28 trees on public property while cutting down almost three times that many.
The problem, of course, is money – trees have a low priority when it comes time to toting up the municipal needs and the funds to be raised to attend to those needs.
The Tree Committee www.northamptonma.gov/treecommittee/ has established a fund to which the public can contribute funds for the purchases of trees to be planted on public property, especially in the tree belt along city streets. And we have applied for and gained the designation of Tree City USA, which will be announced by a sign on Pleasant Street greeting visitors as they enter Northampton.
We also planted a tree in Florence and one downtown on Arbor Day, but that a minimal gain against the continuing loss of the trees our citizens planted generations ago.
Meanwhile, we have been working with the Planning Board and its staff to encourage better tree planting in new subdivisions with recommendations covering the protection of existing trees and rules and guidelines for replacement trees.
On Arbor Day, Tree Committee and DPW members planted a tree in Florence and one in Pulaski Park.
The committee is also concerned with landscaping along the public ways fronting commercial developments, such as the Lia auto dealership on King Street and its adjacent parking lot on the former Agway property.
But, developers, both residential and commercial, often regard landscaping and tree requirements as an unwarranted expense, not as a benefit to the quality of life to the city’s inhabitants.
An alternative perspective, of course, is one I was reading about recently in relation to a legendary theatrical producer, Samuel Lionel Rothafel, or Roxy as he was better known, as were his many lavish movie houses. Don’t give the public what they want – give them more than what they want.
The committee continues to apply for grants for funds to buy trees and to track down free trees, but such difficult matters as who will plant the trees and where and who will care for them remain. My personal feeling is that there is a large constituency in Northampton for more (make that some) funds for the purchase, planting and maintenance of public shade trees, but right now that priority is not reflected in the city’s budget policies toward public trees.
Thus, we continue to seek private support, and volunteer help to somehow turn the current net loss of shade trees into an net gain, so that Northampton’s reputation as a Tree City can be sustained as the trees we find ways to plant today become the life-enhancing mature trees of the future.
So give us a hand, if you can. This is one of those aspects of civic life where it is better to give the public more than it wants, not less. Remember: www.northamptonma.gov/treecommittee/
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