May 16, 2023
On Friday, May 12th, A Better City was thrilled to attend the planting of a new micro forest and launch of a citywide Tree Alliance at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary in Mattapan. The Tree Alliance will be led by Mass Audubon as an effort to help expand tree plantings and maintain urban tree canopy on privately owned land in Boston, centering environmental justice hot spot neighborhoods like Mattapan to help increase tree equity across neighborhoods.
Background Context: 20-Year Urban Forest Plan & Boston Tree Alliance
In September 2022, the City of Boston released it’s 20-Year Urban Forest Plan (UFP) to help analyze existing tree canopy across Boston’s neighborhoods, as well as to offer recommendations for how to protect and expand existing tree canopy. After the UFP launch in 2022, the City of Boston released a request for proposals for a leader of a newly established Tree Alliance in late 2022, modeled after a public-private partnership in Montreal, Quebec that helps to plant and maintain tree canopy on private land in collaboration with city government. This spring, Boston announced that Mass Audubon would lead the Tree Alliance and help the city to work across non-profit organizations, developers, community groups, institutional landowners, and private property owners to address tree equity and tree canopy expansion on privately owned land. A Better City is in contact with Mass Audubon around opportunities to participate in the Tree Alliance and looks forward to working with members and partner organizations on collaborative tree planting efforts.
May 2023 Launch Event: Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary
To officially launch the Tree Alliance, Mass Audubon hosted Mayor Wu, City Councilors, neighborhood residents, and several partner organizations (including A Better City), at Mattapan’s Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary for a tree planting effort. With the support of Boston PowerCorps students in the Urban Forestry Tract, Mayor Wu joined Mass Audubon staff and Boston Nature Center preschoolers to help plant a micro forest of native tree species, on a site that was de-paved and previously a parking lot. By choosing to de-pave this site for a micro forest, Boston Nature Center is helping to address urban heat island effect in a hot spot environmental justice neighborhood (Mattapan) and is helping to restore biodiversity with the addition of hundreds of native tree species. With the design of the micro forest in Miyawaki Superclumps (see photos below), new tree plantings can grow faster together due to healthy competition for light than if they were planted individually, and the micro forest is intended to be fairly self-sufficient with minimal need for maintenance after three years. Perhaps most importantly, the site location for the micro forest was selected to help provide better access to Boston Nature Center for local community residents, with the creation of a new walking path entrance to Boston Nature Center that goes through the micro forest. Many local residents have mentioned that they do not know Boston Nature Center exists so close to their home, nor do they feel particularly welcome there with the long and winding entrance as currently exists, and the micro forest is a win-win for public access and heat relief. It is important to note that Boston Nature Center is also a community resilience hub with Communities Responding to Extreme Weather (CREW), one of the featured organizations in A Better City’s extreme heat case studies.
Parallel to the voluntary efforts of the Tree Alliance that will help plant trees and expand existing canopy on privately owned land in partnership with Mass Audubon and the City of Boston, Boston’s City Council continues to review a proposed Tree Protection Ordinance that seeks to pass regulations on tree maintenance and removal for urban tree canopy. The Ordinance is seeking to address public trees first, to be followed by privately owned trees later in 2023.
If you would like more information on opportunities to engage with the Tree Alliance with Mass Audubon and/or the Tree Protection Ordinance in City Council, then please contact Isabella Gambill.