One of the last linear parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Emerald Necklace, is home to some of Boston’s oldest trees, dating back more than 130 years.
After its release in the spring of 2014, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s tree inventory has developed a comprehensive assessment and management plan that focuses on preservation of the trees and their interactions with their environment.
Ray Oladapo-Johnson, director of park operations at the Conservancy, noted that the inventory was largely undertaken to evaluate the interaction between trees and the public, as well as to take a look at the condition of heritage trees. “The connections between roadways or pathways—areas of high usage— and the trees around them, we need to make sure those trees are safe,” he said.
As a city, Boston only has 28 percent tree coverage, which is 7 percent below the national average, according to a 2012 U.S. Forest Service report. The inventory cataloged more than 7,000 trees on more than 200 acres within the Emerald Necklace, making it a huge asset to Boston’s urban forest.
“We want an understanding of our [tree] canopy,” Oladapo-Johnson said. “It’s actually Boston’s largest park system, so it does have a large contribution to our urban canopy.”
Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture, Inc., carried out the inventory, working with the Conservancy, the cities of Boston and Brookline, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“You can’t think of the benefit from the trees from any one perspective, because [some] people will think of them purely from a recreational standpoint, other people will think of them from a historic standpoint, because it’s part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s masterpiece,” said firm founder Kyle Zick. “There are all kinds of environmental benefits from having trees and particularly for having trees that are bigger.”
Zick noted that previous guidelines and action from the Dukakis administration, updated roughly 15 years ago, asserted that the parks were in very poor condition.
“Just as an observer, having not studied the Emerald Necklace myself, living by the Emerald Necklace for years, I had the same impression,” he said. “You know, you see all these big trees and you see all these dead branches, fallen branches. You see the problems. So we went into it thinking that the results of the inventory would say just the same, that our forest is in bad shape and we’ve got a huge challenge.”
In partnership with Bartlett Tree Experts, Zick’s firm developed a plan designed to increase overall health and growth for both individual trees and the urban forest. Results showed that over half the trees surveyed were actually in fair or good condition.
Zick called the results a glimmer of hope. “A major selling points of this plan is that if we can get our trees to grow bigger and older, they do exponentially more, environmentally. So if a tree is 10 years old, it does a certain amount of work in terms of pollution reduction or absorbing water. But if we get it to grow 50 years, you don’t get five times the improvement—it’s much more than that.”
Although the actual inventory has been completed, Zick says that the next step is continual engagement and reaching out to landowners and investors to focus on individual projects outlined within the plan.
“It’s not going to be done in a year. It’s something that’s going to [take] five years, seven years, or ten years to accomplish,” Zick said. “We already have some good successes with initial projects.”
This piece was originally published by The Fenway News.
Chronicling my journalistic endeavors.
All ocean conservation/biodiversity posts are my own original thoughts. All other posts are my work for other publications.