A few preliminary answers on tree management in Greenfield

While the tree work I saw last week on Smith Street seems not to have been anything the town was doing, it got me interested in how tree management works in Greenfield.

Via the DPW’s page on the town website, I found my way to the Greenfield Tree Committee. The Tree Committee is not an official town body, but rather:

a non-profit, volunteer group of concerned citizens, operating under our umbrella organization, the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC). Our purpose is to promote a strong and resilient urban forest in the Town of Greenfield by facilitating the planting of trees along public ways and by educating the public on the value of trees and the need for their care and maintenance. As a citizen committee, we raise funds and work closely with the Greenfield Department of Public Works in an advisory and supportive capacity.

I was interested to know how trees are identified for removal, what the process is for approving or disputing their removal, and whether there is an overall replanting strategy to replace trees that are removed.

Having spent a few days reading through various documents and a few informal chats it seems to me that there is little thought given to tree management by the town and that the process for taking down and replacing trees is rather ad hoc.

By Massachusetts law, every town must have a tree warden, either elected by voters or appointed by the mayor. In Greenfield, it is an appointed role, currently held by Paul Raskevitz. Raskevitz is also Field Superintendent at the DPW, reporting to DPW Director Don Ouellette. The term of appointment is three years, but I do not know when the current term began.

When a tree on municipal property is identified for removal, it is tagged—you may have seen the white forms staples to trees around town—and then goes on a list to be discussed at a public tree hearing. These tree hearings should be run by the Tree Warden and are open to the public. Attendees may object to the removal of trees, but such objections may be overruled by the mayor.

The next tree hearing is scheduled for April 26 at 6pm at Town Hall. There look to be about twenty trees on the list, at least of half of which look to be related to the digging work Berkshire Gas is doing on Norwood Street. I am planning to attend the hearing, and have emailed Raskevitz requesting minutes from the last two or three Tree hearings to get a a sense of how they run.

As for tree replacement, I have yet to find any indication of an overall strategy.

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments complete a tree inventory for Greenfield in 2014, but I have yet to find anything showing that the town has done much with it. The ad hoc queries I have done thus far lead me to think that trees are tagged for removal either because there have been complaints (or they represent an obvious hazard), or because they are in the way of road or utility work—e.g., last summer’s work on Silver Street or what is currently happening on Norwood Street. While the aforementioned Tree Committee has undertaken a number of volunteer and donation-driven efforts to plant new trees, it does not seem like the town itself has done anything beyond individual plantings here and there at resident requests as required by Greenfield’s tree ordinance.

I am interested to see how the April 26 tree hearing goes, and I am waiting to hear back on a few questions I have sent out. More to come…

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