Amid pandemic, multi-year tree-planting campaign continues with smaller efforts

GREENFIELD — A three-year campaign to plant new trees throughout Greenfield hit a speed bump this spring with the outbreak of the coronavirus. But smaller efforts to plant new trees are still going on, and the city is still hopeful that a larger effort can be made later this year.

This marks the second year of the campaign to plant 800 new trees in Greenfield, both to replace a batch of old trees that have recently started to die off, and to expand and diversify the numbers of trees around the city.

The 800 trees are provided by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service to the Franklin Land Trust, which is helping to coordinate the city’s effort. The grant also brings trees to Montague and North Adams, with a goal of planting 2,400 new trees altogether.

On Tuesday, the city started its slimmed-down planting season with a tree planting at the Veterans Mall as part of a late celebration of Arbor Day. The original plans for the holiday — typically held on April 30 — were canceled due to the pandemic, said Melissa Patterson, community outreach director of the Franklin Land Trust.

“We had all these plans to ramp up our planting this year,” Patterson said. “But like everything else, we had to readjust.”

Last year, Greenfield planted about 200 new trees. According to Greenfield Tree Warden Paul Raskevitz, this year and next year the city had planned to increase its efforts, so as to meet its 800-tree goal within three years. Though most of the plans for this year have been delayed, the city still hopes to coordinate a planting project this fall.

The last time Greenfield made a large-scale effort to plant trees throughout the city was about 60 years ago, Raskevitz said. Because they were all planted at about the same time, they all started to die at about the same time too, about five years ago.

With this grant from the Franklin Land Trust, Raskevitz said, the city is replacing many of those trees, and diversifying the species.

Most of the trees in the now-dying batch were Norwegian maples, he said. They are considered good street trees because they grow quickly and are resilient in different conditions, he said, but now they are classified as an invasive species.

The grant gives the city a chance to plan its tree planting more thoughtfully than before, he said. Special attention is being paid to planting trees of different species, different sizes and different life expectancies.

“So hopefully we don’t end up with all these trees dying at the same time 100 years from now,” he said.

Although the city’s large-scale effort this year has been delayed, there are still smaller efforts by the Greenfield Tree Committee, a non-governmental volunteer group that is also involved in the grant from the Franklin Land Trust.

John Bottomley, a Tree Committee member and a city councilor in his first term, personally took a delivery of 14 trees at his home on Haywood Street on Tuesday morning.

Over the next week, Bottomley plans to deliver the trees to houses in his neighborhood who have requested new trees through the Department of Public Works.

“In a way, there’s nothing more hopeful than planting a tree, because you’re not going to see it mature for decades,” Bottomley said.

“Talk about being adaptive,” Patterson added. “I think, right now, there is such a need for hope.”

Greenfield residents can request a new tree by calling the Department of Public Works at 413-772-1528.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-930-4231.

Author: Going Green

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