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U.S. Forest Service Studies Springfield Reforestation Effort

City of Springfield

In the two years since a tornado tore through Springfield, Massachusetts a volunteer effort has spearheaded the planting of thousands of new trees.  The work is being done as the U.S. Forest Service conducts a study on the environmental impacts from the loss of the urban tree canopy.

More than 4,400 new trees have been planted in Springfield in the last two years in an effort to restore, largely for later generations, the shade trees that lined streets and filled public parks prior to the June 1, 2011 tornado.

David Bloniarz is chairman of ReGreen Springfield, a nonprofit group that was formed about two years ago to lead the effort to plant new trees in the tornado- ravaged neighborhoods.  Blonairz is also a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service. He is directing a five-year study that began last summer to measure the impact of the urban reforestation effort.

ReGreen Springfield has received about $1.2 million for tree planting. $400,000 came from Massachusetts state grants with the rest donated by corporations and individuals. TD Bank donated $20,000 and supplied 80 volunteers on Wednesday to plant 60 new trees in Riverfront Park, which was ground zero for the tornado in Springfield.

Jana Seiler, who works for TD Bank and lives in West Springfield, said she drives by Riverfront Park every morning and is looking forward to seeing the new trees blossom in the spring.

Credit WAMC
Employees of TD Bank plant trees in Riverfront Park in Springfield, MA. The bank donated $20,000 and the labor for the tree planting to the ReGreen Springfield program.

Mark Sylvia, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources praised the tree planting effort in Springfield for its impact on climate change.

Springfield lost an estimated 10,000 trees as a result of the tornado. City Forester Ed Casey said there are large swaths of public and private land that remain devoid of trees.

About 1,400 trees have been planted on private property by the ReGreen Springfield initiative. The cost of planting a new 2 to 2-and-a-half inch diameter tree is about $400.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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