Wednesday, May 11, 2016

City Installs Municipal Nursery for Public Use

The City has completed the installation and planting of its municipal nursery, making it one of the few municipalities in the Commonwealth to install such a facility for public use. Following months of planning, a total of 400 six-foot bare root tree whips have been planted at the nursery on Berkshire Street, directly adjacent to the City leaf dump.

The project began in May of last year as part of Holyoke’s effort to increase its urban tree canopy, seeded with a $100,000 grant provided by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs Gateway Cities Program. Project management and labor was provided locally by Office of Conservation & Sustainability and the Department of Public Works.

“This project is part of a larger effort to make a better built environment for all of our City’s residents, including green infrastructure that improves the environment in our neighborhoods and increases property values”, said Mayor Alex Morse.

In 2012, the City completed an urban forestry study that analyzed Holyoke’s urban tree canopy. The study identified a concerning decline in the city’s tree canopy, particularly in the more densely populated areas. A diminished tree canopy results in higher temperatures in the summer, greater energy bills for heating and cooling and greater stress on residents due to increased exposure to pollution. This absence of a tree canopy can result in lower property values and can increase the perception of blight. Most significantly, research has shown that health benefits accruing to a community with tree densities that are roughly ten trees per city block can amount to $10,000 per household when converted to health savings. Restoring the canopy results in significant improvements in health throughout the City.

Completion of the nursery follows the planting of roughly 1,800 trees over the past two years in the downtown area through the funding provided by the state’s Greening the Gateway Cities Program, for which Holyoke was selected as one of three pilot communities.
“Over the coming year, we hope to reach a total of 2,000 trees planted. This will have a palpable and long term effect on the quality of our neighborhoods,” said Andrew Smith, Director of Conservation and Sustainability.

The Holyoke Tree Nursery will provide a steady supply of trees for all City residents. The mixture of tree species will become available within one to three years, depending on the tree species desired and their maturity rate, including: River birch, Hackberry, Tulip tree, European hornbeam, Flowering cherry, Swamp white oak, American hornbeam, Sweet gum, Black gum, Sourwood, Zelkova, Service berry, London plane tree, Linden and Dogwood.

“We selected tree species that will diversify the City’s inventory of public and private shade trees to build resiliency into our tree canopy," added Smith. “The installation of a municipal nursery will allow residents to have access to free trees that are normally difficult to procure from local gardening centers.” One of the key features of the City’s nursery is that trees will be raised in “grow bags” which will allow for the entire tree - including the complete root system - to be transplanted throughout the City without the need for heavy equipment.

Anyone interested in caring for a free tree should contact the Conservation & Sustainability Department at 413-322-5615 to reserve the tree species of their choice.

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