Somerville’s Planting 575 New Trees This Month

It's part of a big push to bring 2,000 new trees to the city's sidewalks by 2015.


Photo via @JillyFenn on Twitter

Residents won’t have to travel to a nearby park in order to enjoy the foliage in Somerville.

As part of a push to beautify the city’s sidewalks, and create an urban landscape that’s easy on the eyes, city officials announced they are in the midst of planting 575 new trees all around Somerville during the month of July.

“It’s a big project, it’s definitely going to be a big impact on the city,” said Rachel Kelly, Somerville’s Green Infrastructure Planner. “It’s been going quickly, they are moving pretty fast. It’s been great. One of the big reasons we wanted to do this was because of how important trees are to our health and our welfare. Somerville is surrounded by highways to a degree, and a big part of this is we need these because it’s a quality-of-life benefit.”

The “plant blitzing,” which started in 2011 after the city’s Urban Forest Initiative conducted an extensive tree inventory, will bring the total number of trees recently planted on Somerville’s streets up to 1,000. The goal of the entire project is to double the work that has already been completed, adding 2,000 new trees to various neighborhoods citywide by 2015, officials said.  The installations are being funded by $75,000 in annual federal grants, with additional support from the city’s budget.

Workers have been preparing for the plantings, working from the West side of the city toward the East, by digging into the sidewalk’s concrete, and marking the spots with two pieces of wood tied together by yellow caution tape.

Denise Taylor, director of communications and community engagement, said the unsightly markings have caused a lot of confusion for residents, and the city has been fielding inquiries about the sites where the crumbling walkways have been jackhammered to make room for the new trees. “We have had a lot of people asking about this,” she said of the areas where the sidewalk has been disturbed. “They have caused lots of confusion and curiosity and excitement.”

With most of the “pits” dug up, workers will return to the sites with a backhoe and tree, lifting up the entire slab before Central Nurseries, the company leading the installations, puts the trees into the ground.

Kelly said the trees are under a care and warranty plan for the next three years, so during that time Central Nurseries will be keeping an inventory of the project’s progress, and tending to the watering in the summers. If the tree dies or takes on a disease, they will have to replace it. “They are maintained, and once they are in we know that they are going to be watered,” said Kelly. “It gives them time to get established. They can really take root and thrive.”

A total of twelve species of trees will be planted over the course of the month, including red maple, silver linden, and sweetgum. Taylor said the trees won’t only make the city more vibrant, but they will also bring shade and energy savings to houses nearby.

Trees in urban settings have also been credited with helping slow down drivers weaving through city streets. “There are all kinds of beneficial aspects beside the fact that they are pretty,” she said. “They calm traffic. Streets with trees that drivers are on tend to make them drive more slowly. It’s an interesting phenomenon. It helps, especially on side streets.”