City Council Tree Hearing
June 18, 2018
Friends of the Public Garden Testimony
I want to thank the Council, and in particular Councilors O’Malley and Pressley, for bringing attention to the important issue of Boston’s tree canopy.
I am Liz Vizza, Executive Director of the Friends of the Public Garden. We partner with the City to care for 1,700 trees in our three downtown parks—the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. I will be brief, because I want to emphasize two important points that should be made: funding, and joint responsibility. This year the Friends will invest $500,000, nearly half of our overall spending directly in the parks, caring for the trees alone, including planting, pruning, disease control, fertilizing, and inventory management. This is in three parks totaling 83 acres, in a city of over 57,000 acres.
It is important that the City be the leader in coordinating an effort of all Boston’s property owners to not only increase the tree canopy but commit to ongoing care, in order for existing trees to thrive and attain significant size. The City’s ambitious goal to plant 100,000 trees was intended to be met using City, State, Federal and private dollars, with a significant amount of tree planting occurring on private property. While institutions focus on meeting resiliency goals, they point to their LEED certified buildings. They need to be challenged to look to their campuses as well.
So, this must be a shared goal. Increasing the tree canopy to reap the benefits of mitigating climate change, building resiliency, and improving public health cannot be solved by trees in our parks and city streets alone. Parkland in Boston – both City and State land – covers less than 6,000 of those 57,000 acres.
We would also urge the City Council to look to other cities for models of tree ordinances and how they have helped other municipalities protect their tree canopies with this enforcement mechanism. Some good examples include Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon. Pittsburgh has an urban forest master plan as well. The Boston Urban Forest Council gave a document to the Mayor’s transition team in 2014 with a number of recommendations. Included in them was support for an Urban Forestry Plan for Boston and a tree ordinance.
We look forward to working with the City to support a comprehensive program to realize this goal of increasing our tree canopy as well as ensuring the health every tree planted. Everyone loves to plant a tree, but planting trees is not the same as other capital improvements. The work is not done when we put them into the ground, it has only just begun. This year’s City budget has $100,000 for tree care in our parks, the first time this line item has appeared in the budget. This is good, but yet still a drop in the bucket of the need. This must be increased many-fold in order to do the work that needs to be done. To reap the benefits of mature trees in our city, there must be a steady, long-term commitment to them.