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Greening the Gateway Cities

An Urban Canopy Project in Westfield

There are many reasons to plant a tree in your yard.  Thanks to the collaboration between the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Urban & Community Forestry Program, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Department of Energy Resources (DOER), Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), cities, and nonprofits, the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP) is offering some local Westfield residents trees for free.

GGCP saw the potential in Westfield as a midsize urban city with neighborhoods that had low tree canopy cover.  Julie Coop, State Coordinator; Doug Hutcheson, Program Forester; Sarah Greenleaf, Urban Forester; and Bridget Matthews-Kane, Westfield’s Ward 3 Councilor, are a few of the many helping to make this program happen.  In addition to reducing energy consumption, wind speeds, summer temperatures, and heat loss in winter, Julie, Sarah, and Bridget say the trees offer even more benefits.

“The trees intercept stormwater runoff, prevent erosion, and increase property values,” Julie said.  Sarah added, “There are people who love wildlife, and sometimes that is a reason to get the trees.  Other people want more shade.  We have the great opportunity to work with property owners and residents to select the tree that’s right for them.”

Bridget continued, “Studies also show that tree-lined neighborhoods have lower crime rates, lower rates of ADD and asthma in children, improved academic performance, and less noise pollution.  The bonus is that they are beautiful.”

Summers ago, homeowners in Worcester County noticed it felt hotter and air conditioners were running more, subsequently increasing utility bills.  Officials learned this was because of the removal of 30,000 trees infested by the Asian Longhorned beetle.  GGCP was inspired by the tree replanting efforts that followed.  

Bridget advocated for Westfield’s inclusion: “I was lucky to be a councilor so I could help set the boundaries, walk the streets to collect data, and promote a fantastic program.  I grew up on Holland Avenue and I can remember the lush, beautiful canopies of trees that lined the street.  It made it a magical place to be a kid.  The streets in our ward lost those trees over the decades, and I want to bring them back so the next generation can experience that same magic.”

“GGCP planted the program’s 30,000th tree on Westfield’s Common in October,” Doug stated proudly.  “To date, the program has planted in 18 of the 26 designated Gateway Cities.  We have nine planting crews.  Our target is to increase tree canopy cover by 5%.  We just began in Westfield, and it’s ripe with opportunity.

Julie followed up with more program objectives: “Our goal is to plant at least 2,400 trees per city.  Planting happens 20% on public land, and 80% on private property.  We’re focusing on about 1,000 acres of planting in each city.”

Sarah is in Westfield actively planting trees and working with homeowners; 208 trees were planted in 2021.  “The goal is to keep it diverse,” Sarah declared.  “The top choices in Westfield last year were the black gum, tulip poplar, and paperbark maple trees.  However, we have around 40 species from which to choose, focusing on maximizing benefits on the property.”

Check the map to see if you live within the targeted downtown area:  If you’re in the zone, give Sarah a call at (617) 626-1473 to schedule your tree planting.  All you have to do is water!

  • Black Gum Tree
  • Westfield Planting Zone
  • Trees planted along Court Street
  • Planting crew in Westfield
  • Governor Baker planting the 30,000 tree