Garden Club of the Back Bay Creates for Alley Trees

The Tree Committee of the Garden Club of the Back Bay announces, a new website to document and help protect the neighborhood’s alley trees, which are often at risk for removal without City approval.

In 2016, volunteers inventoried the alley trees in the area bordered by Back Street, Arlington Street, Charlesgate and Newbury Street. Each tree was photographed and assessed for species, size, location, and condition. This information appears on the website for each address.

Currently, there are about 413 trees in Back Bay’s alleys. Between the 2016 inventory and the previous one in 2010, about 82 trees were removed from private property. New trees were also planted, yet the Club and city official are concerned about the dwindling Tree canopy.  The wild Ailanthus is the most common species by far.  “The ‘Crown Jewels’ of our alleys,” said Tree Committee member Laurie Thomas. “They are the tallest, thrive in the toughest spots, and provide the most shade.”

The Tree Committee created the website to serve three purposes: 1.) To document and protect alley trees. Many were illegally removed to add parking spaces or because residents were unaware of tree removal guidelines. All alley trees are protected by the Back Bay Architectural Commission’s (BBAC) guidelines; 2. ) To inform residents and property managers about the BBAC’s guidelines for tree removal and planting. The guidelines protect all trees on private property (the Parks Department governs street trees). To remove a tree, owners must submit a formal application to the Commission and attend a hearing; certain criteria must be met before permission is granted. includes information about the BBAC’s Tree Removal Policy; and 3.) To encourage the preservation of existing trees and the planting of new ones. Boston’s tree canopy is shrinking. Trees provide many ecological benefits, including reducing air pollution, preventing flooding in overtaxed storm drainage systems, providing shade to reduce energy costs, mitigating the effects of the urban heat island, reducing wind and noise, and providing wildlife habitat, food, and shelter. Trees also have a calming effect on people, enhance our quality of life, are a source of beauty, and increase property values.

The Tree Committee will conduct an inventory of front-garden trees this summer, and add that information to the website.

The Garden Club’s mission is to promote civic beauty; improve, advance and encourage horticultural improvements; ornament the streets and public squares of the City of Boston, especially the Back Bay, by planting and cultivating ornamental trees; and to educate the public in the art of gardening. The Club welcomes questions from residents about caring for their trees.

Contact them at [email protected].

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