Holyoke Awarded Grants to Improve Urban Forestry Text Size

The City of Holyoke is serious about making urban street trees and public shade trees a component of its ongoing redevelopment efforts. To that end, the City has applied for and received funding to strategically plan the City’s urban forestry needs. To facilitate this process Mayor Alex B. Morse is looking for citizens with an interest in serving on an urban forestry advisory committee.

“This grant is just one small component of an overall strategy that is designed to enhance the livability of Holyoke,” Mayor Morse said. “Taken together, the City is demonstrating a clear commitment, over the next several years, to investing public dollars in the social, economic and environmental well-being of Holyoke’s urban core.”

This Urban Forestry Plan will build off of the momentum of the City’s Urban Renewal Plan (2013) and Open Space and Recreation Plan (2012) to continue to make green infrastructure, sustainable development and the arts a core component of the City’s economic strategy.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation, with direction from Governor Patrick and Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, has awarded the City of Holyoke $27,450 for the development of this Urban Forestry Plan. The funds have been awarded through DCR’s Environmental Justice Urban Forestry Challenge Grant Program, which gives urban communities with Environmental Justice populations access to funds to plan or implement urban reforestation programs.

In Holyoke, these funds will go towards a Community-Based assessment of Urban Forestry Conditions that will rely on a combination of citizen participation, public involvement and professional expertise to develop a long-range plan for re-establishing street trees and public shade trees in the City’s most heavily developed neighborhoods.

“At the moment, we don’t have a good baseline understanding of our existing urban forest canopy,” said Andrew Smith, Conservation Director. “Developing a plan with these funds will allow us to gain an understanding of how many trees we need to plant, where these trees need to go, and the types of species that will be well-suited to the soils and site conditions of our distinct neighborhoods.”

The City’s Urban Forestry Plan will develop a detailed estimate of the City’s long-term planting needs and will generated a benefits-cost analysis for implementing this plan so that the benefits of stormwater attenuation, carbon sequestration, energy savings, temperature mitigation and enhanced property values are weighed against the costs of implementing an urban forestry program in Holyoke.

Environmental Justice Communities, in Massachusetts, are defined by the Commonwealth as minority communities lacking proficiency with the English Language who make less than 65% of statewide median income. Based upon the current accepted definition of Environmental Justice, residents of Environmental Justice Populations occupy neighborhoods with disproportionate concentrations of environmental pollutants and experience limited opportunities to participate in public decision making processes. Actions that can be taken to redress these disparities include meaningful investment in “green infrastructure” to support quality of life enhancements in these neighborhoods. To address the lack of environmental justice opportunities in downtown Holyoke, the city plans to use funds from the Urban Forestry Environmental Justice Challenge Grant Program to develop an Urban Forestry Management Plan to chart a 30-year plan for the maintenance and enhancement of the City’s trees.

According to the 2010 Census, the area contained within the City’s Environmental Justice areas contains approximately 4,447 acres of the City’s land area (approximately 32% of the City’s total acreage) and approximately 31,219 residents (roughly 78% of the community). Moreover, these Census Tracts contain the highest concentration of impervious surface areas within the Community (Source: MassGIS). Developing and implementing a plan to re-forest public streets and public parks within these target neighborhoods is a crucial component of the City’s plan to enhance the quality of life for a substantial portion of the City’s residents.

 Foe more information, contact Andrew Smith (Holyoke) at 413-322-5615 or Eric Seaborn (DCR) at 617-626-1468

Posted on June 27, 2013 by