The Urban Forest of Chicopee
The City of Chicopee is dedicated to the vitality of its Urban Forest through proactive management of both public and private trees within municipal bounds. Targeted efforts to promote trees within the urban landscape bring holistic results; when properly maintained, trees provide numerous environmental, economic, and social benefits far in excess of the time and resources invested in their planting, pruning, protection and removal.
Trees improve air quality, increase public health and mitigate the extreme temperatures of both summer and winter. The urban forest also provides a vital layer of storm water management, helping to slow, spread and sink water into the soil, attenuating the “peak” flow of a rain event. Additionally, trees contribute to our urban experience, impacting neighborhood vitality and economic development, especially in our urban centers. The living infrastructure of parks and street trees shape the character of the City, honoring historical people and events. Through collaboration between City Departments and in conjunction with state and federal organizations, Chicopee has illustrated its commitment through the following initiatives:
Tree Management Plan
Completed for the City of Chicopee in January 2014 by the Davey Resource Group, this plan studied the current condition of the City’s Urban Forest. The full document can be found [here.] The inventory recorded a total of 15,043 sites, including 8,915 planting sites, 5,805 individual trees, and 323 stumps along public street rights-of-way (ROWs) and in specified parks and public properties.
• The overall condition of the inventoried tree population is rated as Fair.
• Maintenance needs recommended during the inventory include planting (59%), pruning (36%) and tree/stump removal (5%).
• One genus, Acer (maple), constitutes a large percentage of the street ROW inventory (41%) and threatens biodiversity.
• Age (diameter size class) distribution of the tree population trended away from the ideal with a greater number of mature trees than young, established or maturing trees.
Photo courtesy of Eric DePalo
Emerald Ash Borer
Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is a serious pest and is known to attack and kill native ash trees, including white, green, blue, and black ash. The state is committed to early detection and thoughtful management of this pest. EAB has been identified in the Dalton, Massachusetts, and poses a serious threat to the health and condition of Chicopee’s ash tree population. (Photo courtesy Emerald Ash Borer University. "Municipal EAB Management Series Your EAB Management Options vs. the ‘Death Curve’)
Asian Longhorned Beetle
The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB, Anoplophora glabripennis) is an exotic pest threatening a wide variety of hardwood trees in North America. The beetle was introduced in New York City, NY; Chicago, IL; New Jersey, NJ; Worcester, MA and Cincinnati, OH and is believed to have been introduced in the United States from wood pallets and other wood packing material accompanying cargo shipments from Asia. ALB is a serious threat to America’s hardwood tree species. In 2008 ALB was found in Worcester County, Massachusetts and most recently in 2010 it was found in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Adults are large (3/4- to 1/2-inch long) with very long, black and white banded antennae. The body is glossy black with irregular white spots. Adults can be seen from late spring to fall depending on the climate. ALB has a long list of host species; however, the beetle prefers hardwoods including several maple species. [(Photo courtesy New Bedford Guide http://www.newbedfordguide.com/volunteers-needed-for-asian-longhorned-beetlesurvey/2011/03/30)]
The gypsy moth (GM, Lymantria dispar) is native to Europe and first arrived in the United States in Massachusetts in 1869. This moth is a significant pest because its caterpillars have voracious appetites for more than 300 species of trees and shrubs. GM caterpillars defoliate trees leaving them vulnerable to diseases and other pests that can eventually kill the tree. The GM prefers approximately 150 primary hosts but feeds on more than 300 species of trees and shrubs. Some trees are found in these common genera: Betula (birch), Juniperus (cedar), Larix (larch), Populus (aspen, cottonwood, poplar), Quercus (oak), and Salix (willow). [Photo courtesy Hungry Pests-Gypsy Moth. http://www.aphis.usda.gov/hungrypests/GypsyMoth.shtml]
A Note About Species Diversity
Because of these threatening pests and diseases, the composition of a tree population within the City should follow the 10-20-30 Rule for species diversity: a single species should represent no more than 10% of the urban forest, a single genera no more than 20%, and a single family no more than 30%. Currently the Urban Forest in Chicopee has no major concerns at the family level. As illustrated in the figures below, the City does have one genus and one species that break this biodiversity rule.
Figure 1 compares the percentages of the most common genus identified on the street ROW during the inventory to the 20% Rule. Maple far exceeds the recommended 20% maximum for a single species in a population comprising 41%.
These numbers indicate that maple trees dominate the streets and parks in Chicopee. Considering the large quantity of maple trees already present in the population and their susceptibility to invasive pests, the planting of these trees should be minimized to reduce the potential for loss.
Figure 2 compares the percentages of the most common species on the street ROW to the 10% Rule. Norway maple far exceeds the recommended 10% maximum for a single species in a population comprising 16% of the inventoried tree population. Acer rubrum (red maple) is at the threshold comprising 10% and Acer saccharinum (silver maple) is approaching the 10% threshold as well comprising 9%.
Furthermore, Norway Maple is considered an invasive species in North America because of its aggressive tendencies; its roots grow close to the surface, starving surrounding plants of needed water, among other characteristics.
• young (0–8 inches diameter)
• established (9–17 inches diameter)
• maturing (18–24 inches diameter)
• and mature trees (>24 inches diameter).
Ideal distribution suggests that the largest fraction of trees (approximately 40% of the population) should be young (<8 inches diameter) with a smaller fraction (approximately 10%) in the mature size class (>24 inches diameter). A tree population with the ideal distribution would have an abundance of newly planted and young trees, with established, maturing, and mature trees present in lower numbers.
Even though it may appear that Chicopee has too many mature trees, this is not the case. Actually, Chicopee has too few young, established, and maturing trees and, thus, the distribution is skewed. The Tree Maintenance Plan recommends that Chicopee support a strong planting and maintenance program to ensure that young, healthy trees are in place to fill in gaps in the tree canopy and provide for gradual succession of older trees. The City is promoting tree preservation and proactive tree care to ensure older trees survive as long as possible. Tree planting and tree care will allow the distribution to normalize over time.
Planting trees is necessary to increase canopy cover and to replace trees lost to natural mortality (expected to be 1–3% per year) and other threats (for example, invasive pests or impacts from weather events such as storms, wind, ice, snow, flooding, and drought). The Plan recommends planting at least 116 trees of a variety of species each year to offset these losses and increase canopy and maximum benefits. Citywide tree planting should focus on creating canopy in areas that promote economic growth (such as business districts), in parking lots and near buildings with insufficient shade and where there are gaps in the existing canopy.
Geographic Information System (GIS) Maps [Above] are used by the Chicopee Department of Forestry and the Department of Planning and Development, as well as the Department of Public Works to determine the best distribution of new plantings. Hundreds of new trees have been planted since April 2000.
In 2015 Chicopee was selected as a recipient for a grant award from the 2015 TD Green Streets Program administered by TD Bank and the Arbor Day Foundation. The $20,000 grant supported the planting of approximately 160 bare root trees throughout the neighborhoods of Chicopee Center, Chicopee Falls and Willimansett. Species are selected for their hardiness, beauty and ecological function. A list of trees recommended for urban planting can be found [here.]
Another tree planting was executed in the Spring 2017, including 100 individual trees comprising 8 distinct species.
Greening the Gateway Cities
Greening the Gateway Cities (GGC) is a partnership among four Massachusetts agencies: the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). GGC is designed to assist homeowners in reducing household heating and cooling costs by increasing tree canopy cover in urban areas of selected Gateway Cities. To date, Chicopee is one of eleven (11) cities across Massachusetts selected to participate in the program.
In 2016, GGC focused its planting efforts in the Willimansett neighborhood. The program has a goal of achieving a 10% increase in urban tree canopy cover in Willimansett which is anticipated to result in a reduction of heating a cooling costs by approximately 10%, with an average homeowner saving approximately $230 a year, once the trees reach maturity. Over their lifespan, the trees are expected to lead to $400 million in energy savings for residents and businesses.
The program targets parts of Gateway Cities that have lower tree canopy, older housing stock, higher wind speeds and a large renter population. Plantings are concentrated in Environmental Justice neighborhoods to benefit those most in need.
Implementation of the program in Willimansett includes the planting of trees on public property and through voluntary interest on private property. Overall, the goal is to see a total of 85% of trees planted through the program planted on private property to maximize the potential energy savings and other benefits including a reduction in stormwater runoff, urban temperatures and air quality improvement.
This program is completely voluntary but has been very successful in this first year. 478 trees have been planted since the program began. The next phase is planned for Spring/Summer 2017. If interested please contact the local Greening the Gateway Cities team of arborists at (617) 626-1473.
Chicopee celebrates Arbor Day annually in the Spring. The 2016 celebration took place at Rivers Park, located directly across the street from the new Veteran’s housing at the former Chapin Elementary School. The City’s Veteran’s Services Department and several Veterans participated in the celebration. Mayor Richard J. Kos, City and State Officials and honored guests celebrated by planting 8 hybrid Elm trees to replace old Silver Maples that were damaged in past storms. These trees will eventually provide cooling shade to a largely shade-less area of River’s Park.