250 free trees offered to residents


Jamaica Plain residents can fight off the winter blues by planning ahead for a greener spring. The Setback Tree Project will plant trees for free in 250 yards later this year, and now is the sign-up time.

The project is run by Roxbury-based EarthWorks and the local JP Trees, which offered similar tree-plantings on a smaller scale last year.

The main goal is to plant trees on private property within 20 feet of a road or sidewalk, where they will also directly benefit the public.

While the trees are available to all residents, the project especially
aims to fill in the relatively treeless Hyde/Jackson/Egleston squares areas, as determined by recent tree-mapping by the Urban Ecology Institute, according to EarthWorks’ Gretchen Folk. “It would be nice to get more canopy cover there,” she said.

Lauren Ockene of JP Trees said they hope to target “lower-income neighborhoods in general,” noting that “people who gravitated toward [last year’s plantings] were poeople who could have afforded to pay for their own trees.”

The free tree process begins with a brief application form. EarthWorks and JP Trees will then do a site evaluation to see if the yard is a good location and if so, for what kind of tree. One minimum requirement is room for the tree to grow at least 30 feet straight up without any obstacles.

If the location is good, the groups will then plant the tree for free, which includes checking for underground utilities. In exchange, the property owner must agree to take care of the tree, which basically means watering it in warm weather and spreading mulch around it in the fall. EarthWorks will also track the tree’s health for five years.

There are about a dozen species of tree to choose from, including maples, oaks, ashes and some non-invasive foreign species. The trees will be about 4 to 7 feet tall—an age and condition that makes them more likely to survive, Folk said.

Site evaluations will be conducted within the next month or so. Plantings will run from March through May.

The project is funded with a $17,500 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. It’s considered a pilot program that may be continued and expanded to other neighborhoods and towns, Folk said. It was inspired by JP Trees’ two plantings of free front-yard trees last year, which added about two dozen trees to JP’s canopy, Folk said.

The trees are coming from a Maine supplier that EarthWorks regularly uses for its successful urban orchards and wilds projects, Folk said.

To apply for a free tree, contact Folk at 442-1059 or see http://earthworksboston.org. The project is also seeking volunteers for site evaluations, plantings and outreach.

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