Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Executive Director of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management (PBRM) Patrick Sullivan, City Forester Alex Sherman, Assistant City Forester Marcus Catlett, and Facilities Management Director John Kerrigan along with the City Forestry team joined today with Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Undersecretary Dan Sieger and Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness staff for a tour of the City of Springfield’s municipal nursery located in Forest Park at 300 Trafton Road.
In 2019, the City was awarded a grant through the Commonwealth’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Grant Program and was selected to receive $315,000 to initiate an environmental assessment of the City’s urban trees and develop an action-orientated climate resilient plan.
With the support of the MVP Action Grant, the City’s Forestry team has undertaken the work of increasing the total number of tree species available, protecting new plantings through installation of deer fencing, increasing opportunities to harvest seedlings from healthy species throughout the city, nurturing these seedlings in the City’s greenhouse, and educating future generations of arborists about tree care through designing the greenhouse and providing educational spaces for local vocational programs.
Mayor Sarno stated, “With this project, we are on our way to transforming Springfield’s urban landscape. Planting trees and creating a resilient urban forest are essential to answering the needs of our citizens as our global temperatures continue to rise. I’m appreciative of the efforts of the Baker-Polito Administration in identifying funding for cities and towns to initiate these assessments. I am also very grateful to our Parks and Forestry team for their continued hard work to keep our trees healthy and provide more greening opportunities and education to our community. We look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Theoharides and Undersecretary Sieger to identify key quality-of-life projects throughout our City. Springfield residents will benefit greatly from this grant and will ensure future generations that Springfield’s climate infrastructure will be protected by planting more trees.”
PBRM Director Sullivan said, “This MVP grant signals a new day for our city as well as for all city and towns across the commonwealth. The ability to conduct an assessment of our current conditions and identify the resources necessary to improve our urban forest are key to the long-term goals of addressing needs caused by our changing environment. We are grateful to our business and academic community, as they have signed on to work with the city in the implementation of this grant. The key to this grant’s success is having all parties working together and sharing this information across the commonwealth. We are very grateful for this opportunity.”
City Forester Sherman added, “The Springfield Forestry Division is proud to be an integral part of the overall climate plan set forth by Mayor Sarno and the Commonwealth. Springfield has made great strides across the board in reducing its energy usage. This grant sets in motion the next critical steps for our city by assessing our current urban forest conditions, identifying our needs, and allowing the city to establish and expand resources within the city to address the basic need of planting more trees. This grant will allow the city to effectively manage its urban forest over the next twenty years and the results will be vital in protecting the quality of life in our city.”
Springfield has long been on the cutting edge of climate change and disaster preparedness. Since enduring two federally declared disasters in 2011, the city has initiated several programs related to community resiliency. Developed in 2017, the city is implementing a Climate Action and Resilience Plan. The proposed activities aim to execute priority action steps identified in this plan. Managing the urban forest was one of six strategies identified through the exhaustive process of developing a comprehensive resilience plan for the City of Springfield. This project will support five out of nine urban forestry strategies identified. These include:
- Identify and secure sustainable funding sources for annual tree planting.
- Identify and secure sustainable funding sources for care and maintenance of public trees.
- By 2022, plant 5,600 trees on public property and by 2060, achieve 100% street tree stocking levels by planting an additional 55,000 trees on public property.
- Enhance opportunities of forestry-related jobs and skills trainings for Springfield’s youth and residents via collaborations with area academic institutions.
- Increase public education efforts pertaining to the value and importance of trees, shrubs, and fruit producing vegetation regarding food access and security, mental and community health co-benefits, and urban ecosystem services.
The project aims to support these strategies through four main project tasks, including:
- Redesign and retrofit of Forestry Division Operations Center and Arboricultural Learning Center.
- Detailed vulnerability and risk assessment of Springfield’s urban forest.
- Increase capacity of municipal nursery operation.
- Green job skills training through engaging local non-profits, academic institutions, and city residents.
Successful implementation of these proposed actions will bring Springfield significantly closer to achieving goals set by this plan and create a more resilient community prepared to face the challenges of climate change.