Mass Innovations, From The Beacon, February 2015

The tornado that tore through a 6.2-mile stretch of Springfield in June 2011 did more than just devastate homes and businesses. It also destroyed a significant portion of the city’s tree canopy.

Ed Casey, the city’s tree warden, said that the tornado required the removal of about 800 trees, along with another 220 that were crippled and will likely be removed within five to 10 years.

The loss of so many trees – made worse by a heavy snowstorm five months later – was more than just an aesthetic drawback. Shade trees help homes and businesses moderate energy costs. In the aftermath of the tornado, according to Casey, staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture did a study of two ends of the same street: one within the path of the tornado and one that was spared. Testing indicated that the homes that lost their tree canopy had average interior temperatures that summer about 4 degrees higher than those that were not in the tornado’s path.

Before long, the city was in touch with the state Department of Energy Resources, which still had some federal stimulus funding on hand, according to Casey. The funding helped bankroll the tree-planting initiative.

In 2012, the newly formed nonprofit ReGreen Springfield hired Worcester-based Davey Resources Group, a company that includes urban forestry among its specialties. The city also contracted with Central Nurseries, a Rhode Island business capable planting 60 young trees a day. The end result was more than 1,000 new trees in the ground.

Property owners were advised on what types of tree would be most suitable for moderating summer heat and how the trees should be cared for. Davey Resources worked with the U.S. Forest Service and several other entities in developing a customized calculator that is “basically a computer model that estimates the myriad benefits that trees provide,” according to Alex Sherman, Springfield’s assistant city forester.

“It’s a cool thing for us in the tree business to be able to show in dollars and cents and pounds of carbon and pounds of pollutants and stormwater that is absorbed,” Sherman said. “That’s what trees in the city are doing every day.”

Casey, who has worked in municipal arboriculture for 35 years, described the project as an enormous challenge.

“I still think about getting 1,140 trees planted in a six-week period in the middle of summer,” he said, describing it as an accomplishment the city can be proud of.

For more information, contact Ed Casey at (413) 736-3111.

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