A plea for the trees

When we bought our condo in Jamaica Plain five years ago we not only fell in love with the house but also with our street. In the last four years, however, we have lost seven of the tall, stately trees that add so much to our neighborhood.

When the City of Boston takes down a tree, the felled tree allegedly goes on a long list of areas to be replanted. In the meantime, the roots are dug up and the space that contained the trunk is cemented over. To add insult to injury, new rules and regulations have been adopted by the City of Boston that limit the areas where trees may be planted so as not to interfere with overhead wires or cause future damage to sidewalks. Has no one at the Parks and Recreation Department ever heard of smaller trees? In the meantime, our beautiful street is just one of many in JP losing environmental health and charm, not to mention property values.

I have had many conversations with the Parks Department over the last few years and have heard many different versions of the truth. What I learned this year has me outraged: there are two planting seasons for trees—spring and fall—but the city’s budget for tree replanting is so limited that often fewer than 500 trees are planted per season in the entire city of Boston. No trees at all are scheduled to be planted in Jamaica Plain this season.

Trees add so much to a city street. In addition to their beauty, trees provide shade where children can play and grown ups can congregate. They give our homes privacy and insulation from the elements, offer refuge to birds and add clean oxygen to the polluted city air. In New York City, the 2005-2006 Street Tree Census quantified the enormous benefits of New York’s street trees: “Street trees provide almost $122 million in benefits annually to City residents and are one of the best investments around–for every $1 Parks spends on planting and maintaining, New York street trees return $5.60 in benefits,” according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website. The City of Boston’s website touts the mayor’s “commitment to a greener Boston,” but that commitment requires dollars and action, not just words.

I am now imploring neighbors and friends to call the city, and tell them that these policies are not okay. Call to report a tree that needs to be replanted; to tell them we support their having a bigger budget; to encourage them to find creative ways to improve this situation; and, most of all, to help them understand why trees are important to our lives and neighborhoods. Letters are written by fools like me, but only God (with a little help from the city) can make a tree.

Julie Smith-Bartoloni
Jamaica Plain

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