Northampton to celebrate Arbor Day with tree tour

NORTHAMPTON — The city will celebrate Arbor Day on April 26 with a number of events, including a walking tour of five notable trees.

The tour, called TreeSpeak Northampton, is the creation of high school senior Madeline Lombard.

“I want people to see these species as more than, quote, ‘just trees,’” said Lombard.

Botanical labels are affixed to five different trees, each of which is a different species: a tulip tree, a pin oak, a London planetree, an American linden, and an American elm.

In addition to the information about the trees, the labels contain a code that can be read on a smartphone that accesses 90 second to two-minute recordings about the trees.

The whole tour is less than a mile, and brochures for it can be found at the Forbes Library, City Hall, the Senior Center and the Lilly Library, as well as on the city’s website.

Lombard said her favorite tree on the tour is the American elm on the corner of Conz Street and Old South Street. She noted how Northampton arborist Ed Cotton cut Dutch elm disease off it numerous times in the past, and how Northampton Tree Warden Rich Parasiliti now takes care of it.

“It’s a miracle that it’s lasted this long with the prevalence of Dutch elm disease,” Lombard said.

Lombard crafted the tour last summer as part of her internship with the Smith College Botanic Garden, and TreeSpeak Northampton is an extension of the tree tour on Smith’s campus. She also worked with the Public Shade Tree Commission and Parasiliti to make the project a reality.

“It’s been great,” said Parasiliti, of working with Lombard.

Lombard also won first place this year in a video contest put on by the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts. Her winning video is entitled, ”The Urban Shade Tree: Nature’s Air Conditioner.”

“I’d like to encourage everyone in Massachusetts to watch it on Arbor Day,” said Lombard, who describes herself as a lifelong climate activist.

Lombard is the daughter of Lilly Lombard, chair of the Public Shade Tree Commission, and she said a major part of her childhood was her mom taking her to climate activist events.

This fall, Lombard will be attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture to study plant science.

“I’ve loved plants all my life,” said Lombard, who also landscapes professionally.

Stockbridge is also Parasiliti’s alma mater, and he said he thinks Lombard will have “a really positive experience” at the school.

“I’m not getting any younger,” said Parasiliti. “We really need to recruit young people to carry on tree planting.”

In addition to the tour, the city will also be doing its 15th annual tree seedling giveaway. Free sugar maple, common lilac, American redbud, American persimmon and American hophornbeam seedlings will be on offer.

“We’re hopefully giving away 500 free tree whips,” said Parasiliti.

The organization Tree Northampton will also be hosting two community tree plantings on Arbor Day, with the help of the tree warden. The plantings will take place near the YMCA parking lot on Massasoit Street and at Cahill Apartments on Fruit Street.

Those interested in volunteering at the plantings should email

Bera Dunau can be reached at

Author: Going Green

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