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Greening Effort Bringing 2,400 Trees To Pittsfield

City and state officials recently celebrated a tree planting program in Pittsfield that is expected to add 2,400 trees throughout the city.With a hand from Reid Middle schoolers, the state’s Greening The Gateway Cities program reached Pittsfield, joining communities like Chicopee and Holyoke. By increasing canopy cover by five to 10 percent, the hope is that the average household can reduce its heating and cooling costs by $230 a year. Linda Tyer is Pittsfield’s mayor.

“Trees certainly provide an aesthetic that all of us appreciate,” Tyer said. “At the same time, our homes and businesses can benefit by having trees nearby because they lower wind speeds and provide shading so it helps us with our energy costs. When you have a canopy of trees in a neighborhood, the whole neighborhood benefits from it not just one house.”

Most of the trees will be planted on public and private property in Pittsfield’s Morningside and West Side neighborhoods along with the downtown core over the next three years. One hundred-seventy-five trees have been sited at nine Pittsfield Housing Authority locations so far. Foresters will visit homes and businesses to recommend which trees are suitable among 40 species.

Bob O’Connor, Massachusetts’ Director of Land and Forest Conservation, says the removal of thousands of trees throughout Worcester because of the harmful Asian Longhorned beetle highlighted the role trees play in energy consumption.

“In one neighborhood of about 750 homes they removed pretty much all of the trees,” O’Connor said. “In one summer, the electricity rate went up by 37 percent from one summer to the next after the trees were gone.”

The state is investing $12 million to plant a total of 20,000 trees in Pittsfield and seven other communities recently added to the program designed for Massachusetts’ 26 Gateway Cities.  In less than two years, 3,700 trees have been planted in Chelsea, Revere, Fall River, Chicopee and Holyoke. Residents who sign up for the program will be provided planted trees, an average of six to eight feet tall, for free as long as they commit to watering them for two summers. Mollie Freilicher is a community action forester with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. She says roughly 10 Pittsfield-area workers have been hired and trained to plant the trees.

“DCR pioneered this replanting method in Worcester to replant neighborhoods devastated by the Asian Longhorned beetle,” Freilicher said. “Over 30,000 trees there have now been replanted and they’re doing well. Surveys done five years after planting showed very high survival rates and that’s due to residents carrying and watering for, not only trees in their yards, but street trees and trees in their neighborhoods. We look forward to that same kind of success in Pittsfield, leaving lasting benefits from these trees for generations to come.”

The Berkshire Environmental Action Team and Pittsfield Tree Watch are helping to site trees in Pittsfield.

Click here to contact DCR about the Greening The Gateay Cities program.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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