Emerald Necklace Conservancy Talks Trees at Annual Meeting

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC) held its annual meeting virtually on May 6, where the organization provided an update on its work over the past year, and Dr. Jim Clark of HortScience gave a speech about tree care and the importance of tree health for human and environmental health. There was also a panel discussion with Clark, ENC Field Operations Coordinator Erica Holm, and Boston Parks Commissioner Ryan Woods about the city’s tree canopy and its effects on residents.

ENC President Karen Mauney-Brodek spoke about some of the projects the organization has worked on this year, including the Charlesgate Park revitalization project, which includes the daylighting of the Muddy River at Charlesgate.

“We’re really making progress there,” she said, and the ENC is “really excited to change that part of the necklace which has been really compromised over the past 50 years.”

Additionally, the ENC has continued its park advocacy work and is aiming to return some of the Shattuck Hospital land to parkland once the hospital moves to the South End.

The ENC also held its volunteer program with Muddy River cleanup days. 

“This year, Bostonians really connected to their parks and wanted to help,” she said.

People were also big fans of the Lights in the Necklace Program, where battery powered green lights were placed on various bridges throughout the Emerald Necklace to illuminate them. She said it was so popular that they are looking into having the lights again next year.

She also mentioned the Olmsted Now bicentennial celebration that will take place in 2022, where the ENC is working with more than 50 partner organizations “to share a shared vision for an equitable, vibrant, and verdant city.”

Dr. Jim Clark, Managing Consultant at HortScience and Bartlett Consulting gave a presentation on “Keeping the Emerald Necklace Green” and the importance of planting, preserving, and maintaining trees in the Emerald Necklace parks.

“Planting alone is not enough,” Clark said. He said that while planting trees is important and necessary, it alone is not adequate for keeping the “urban forest” alive and thriving.

Clark said that there are various health benefits provided by trees, and “there is a direct link between trees and tree care and the scale of benefits provided by the urban forest.”

If trees are maintained poorly or not at all, there is more cost involved and fewer benefits, he added.

“It takes a long time to grow a big tree,” he said, adding that the best way to “increase carbon sequestration” is to both plant new trees and properly maintain the existing ones.

Tree care leads to many positive outcomes, such as improved tree health and structure, reduced pest infestations, management of invasive species management, and more, he said.

Additionally, Erica Holm, Field Operations Coordinator for the ENC, talked about the existing trees in the Emerald Necklace, of which more than 9,000 have been inventoried.

She said that more than $4.7 million has been invested in the Emerald Necklace’s trees, and explained that any trees planted need to be planted correctly using the proper amount of soil and mulch, and then the care needs to extend beyond the planting of the tree.

She said that last year “was our biggest pruning year that we ever had,” even in the midst of the pandemic.

This year marks the first seven-year pruning cycle of the ENC’s Tree Inventory, Assessment and Management Plan. Holm said that annual tree planting will “ramp up,” and the ENC will “tackle woodlands management.”

During the panel discussion, Parks Commissioner Ryan Woods said that there has been a “$500,000 investment in our urban forestry plan,” and an assessment of trees in the city is underway and already complete in neighborhoods like Back Bay, East Boston, and many others.

He said the assessment is currently in progress in Mattapan, Hyde Park, and several other neighborhoods. By June, the assessment is set to be complete citywide. He said that prior to this effort, there was no full assessment of the city’s trees. Woods also said that the city had been planting between 700 and 800 trees per year, but the goal is now to plant 2000 trees per year.                                           

Woods added that another arborist from the New York City park system will join the Parks Department staff beginning in early June to help continue the tree work in Boston. 

For more information about the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and its work, visit emeraldnecklace.org.

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