Trees email — sample

From: Kelley, Craig
Sent: Saturday, October 17, 2015 8:57 AM
Subject: Trees on Council's Monday night agenda

FYI, folks:

If you are interested in the state of our trees, the staffing of our Urban Forestry department, the plan (and challenges) to address our tree grate/tree well issues, I think you’ll find this report very interesting. It, along with an Order asking the Manage to explore how giving people special hoses and a water bill break might help encourage citizens to more aggressively care for nearby trees, are on the Council’s agenda Monday night.

If you’d like to come talk about this at City Council Monday night, you can sign up by phone between 9 AM and 3 PM on Monday at 617-3349-4290. You may also sign up in person at City Hall from 5-6:00 PM. Public comment, limited to three minutes per speaker, starts at 5:30(ish) and lasts at least until 6:00, though if there are enough speakers we often go later. At the end of public comment, people who missed the sign-in window are generally asked if they’d like to speak anyway.

Thanks a lot and have a great weekend.


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Policy Order Resolution


October 19, 2015


WHEREAS: Numerous studies now collaborate what our naturalists and poets have always said-trees are immensely beneficial to our urban environment and wellbeing; and
WHEREAS: The City plants hundreds of trees around Cambridge each year; and
WHEREAS: For multiple reasons, many of these trees die within the first year, often from a lack of sufficient watering; and
WHEREAS: The City actively plants trees, but long term maintenance of new plantings is difficult, giving the appearance that it is easier to dig up and replace failed trees than to properly care for existing trees, all at significant cost to citizens; and
WHEREAS: During the pilot Participatory Budgeting process, citizens demonstrated their desire to share in the maintenance of Cambridge's living infrastructure by establishing a program to plant 100 new trees and distribute watering hoses to abutters; and
WHEREAS: The City should welcome and encourage residents to become partners in keeping their street's trees in good condition; now therefore be it
ORDERED: That the City Manager be and is hereby requested to consider expanding the hose distribution program indefinitely for all new trees planted in sidewalk wells or behind sidewalks; and be it further
ORDERED: That to improve the efficacy of the hose distribution program, and provide an incentive for residents to actively care for the wellbeing of trees planted near their home or business, the city should explore establishing a credit to be applied to the water bills of participants, not to exceed $50 per year; and be it further
ORDERED: That participants should be eligible to receive this credit as long as the tree stays alive, for a period to be determined by the city, between 3 and 5 years; and be it further
ORDERED: That the City Manager is requested to report back to the Council on this matter.

Committee Report

Committee Report #3

HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE MEMBERS In City Council October 19, 2015 Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair
Councillor Dennis Carlone
Councillor Nadeem Mazen
Councillor Marc McGovern

The Health and Environment Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 2:07 P.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.

The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the referred report (ATTACHMENT A) on tree grates, empty tree wells, and stumps in the tree wells and the role that the Committee on Public Planting should take in advising the City Council, City Manager and the Department of Public Works concerning future public planting and maintenance issues.

Present at the hearing were Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair of the Committee, Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Councillor Marc C. McGovern, Councillor Craig Kelley, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, Owen O'Riordan, Commissioner of Public Works, John Nardone, Assistant Commission of Operations, Public Works Department, Rebecca Fuentes, Assistant Commissioner of Administration, Public Works Department, David Lefcourt, City Arborist, Maggie Booz and Florrie Wescoat, Co-Chairs, Public Planting Committee and City Clerk Donna P. Lopez.

Also present were Annette LaMond, 7 Riedesel Avenue, Emily Alexrod, 26 Shepard Street, Tom Sieniewicz, 84 Magazine Street, Planning Board member, Chantal Eide, 20 Ellsworth Avenue, Eric Grunebaum, 98 Montgomery Street, Carol O'Hare, 172 Magazine Street, Marilyn Wellons, 651 Green Street, Veronica Barron, 132 Columbia Street, Bob Richards, 395 Broadway, Jonathan Lewis, 14 Rice Street, James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, Karin Weller, 12 Humboldt Street, M. Alexander Hawley, Honey Liu and John Pitkin, 18 Fayette Street.

Councillor Cheung convened the hearing and explained the purpose. He started with a presentation from Public Planting, then a presentation from Public Works. He outlined ideas for improving the City's green canopy.

Maggie Booz, Co-chair of Public Planting Committee, gave a brief history about the public planting committee. The committee was to advise the city on large streets and on rejuvenating the canopy. A City Arborist was advocated and created. She read the official description for the committee. The committee meets monthly with the City Arborists and in their roles as advisors on the tree canopy for the city the members are public planting plus takers. The members feel that the pulse is weak. She stated that new trees do not do well. The goal is to improve the success rate for the new tree plantings. She spoke about all the reasons that are uncontrollable. Tree wells can be controlled and improved, pruning and watering issues. City departments and staff have been receptive about improvements. She gave a presentation "Street Tree Well Portraits" (ATTACHMENT B). Tree wells become trash pits and go uncared for. The soil becomes compacted and robs the nutrients from the trees and the trees die. She stated that tree grates have their own set of problems; they cannot be weeded. There are unsightly weeds on sidewalks in Cambridge.

Florrie Wescoat, Co-Chair, Public Planting Committee, spoke about tree and canopy health (ATTACHMENT C). Trees are an example of the environment value. She stated that the observations is that trees are being lost in Cambridge. She stated that there are standing dead trees all around the city. The presentation showed the dead trees. She stated that whole blocks and whole plantings are declining at the same time. An average life for a street tree is 7-10 years. She again listed some of the reasons for the decline. She stated that the city is falling behind on planting. She pointed out an oak at Sixth and Charles Street, where there are many young trees, which are failing. Plantings that are reaching a larger scale is needed. She spoke about the benefit of trees to human health. There has been a study about the benefit of public trees. Trees provide a value to humans and the intrinsic value. The trees need services provided to them; generous watering, fertilizing, enlargement of tree wells, careful pruning; selection of large trees to provide large canopies. Small trees do not provide shade. She advocated appropriate pruning under wires. She wanted generous planting behind sidewalks, such as the one planted on Market Street and the Broadway bus stop area in Area 4. There needs to be personal contract with businesses and residents to care and water trees and to clean tree wells. New specifications are being reviewed by Public Works and it is key to monitor these specifications.

Councillor Cheung opened the meeting for a presentation by the Public Works Department (ATTACHMENT D). Mr. O'Riordan acknowledged the work of the public planting committee and appreciates the dedication. He stated that significant improvements will be instituted. Forestry operates within the Public Works Department. Programing and planting are major programs. There are 19,000 trees in the City with the majority in the parks and schools. The City Arborists receives 1,000 requests a year. Commissioner O'Riordan spoke about the community partnerships. The City maintains a 6 year tree pruning program. He spoke about the tree pruning program with utility companies. He spoke about tree planting and the need for watering. The City is looking to improve the tree specifications for the City and it will be completed by the end of this year. The City has gained trees over the last years but needs to concentrate on maintenance of trees. He stated that 100 trees will be planted from the participatory budget process. Trees will be consistently water for a period of two years. He stated that interns have been hired that have helped with watering trees.

David Lefcourt, City Arborist, spoke about the construction coordination. He meets with the contractors and reminds them of the importance of the trees. He spoke about the soil in Cambridge and the problem with allowing roots to take root. He stated that the City requires construction soil to help feed the pathways and help the roots to take root. He spoke about the Western Avenue project where trees have been planted with young trees in front and larger trees in back. He stated that Flexi-pave is being used to help improve soil condition and less asphalt is being used for the protection of the trees. He stated that he has used lessons learned about Emerald Ash borer and it is his hope that Cambridge will have a significant ash population. Flowering trees were mapped in the City. He spoke about strategic four initiatives. He stated that the current stumps (372) are being inventoried and will be removed. There are 404 empty tree well planting sites in the City. He is hoping to replant these within 5 years. He stated that street grates have been removed and there are 165 that still need to be removed. New potential tree wells are being identified - 2,600 have been identified. He spoke about the awards received by the City for trees. He is always trying to set up the award program for Cambridge.

Councillor Cheung opened the meeting to comments from the City Council.

Councillor Kelley stated all are trying to do good work, but he sees dead trees. The increased planting does not affect the canopy. He stated that the work done is important, but planting, water and maintaining trees are the most important aspects.

Councillor Carlone asked if there is a problem with the amount of trees that can be planted each year. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that it is a cost issue and then a maintenance issue. The participatory budget amount may not be sufficient. He stated that the Public Works staff has begun watering the trees. He would like to supplement the allocation for trees. Councillor Carlone spoke about the standards and questioned what the health of the trees on Mass. Avenue is. He asked if it is a 3 year minimum to water the trees to keep them health. He stated that the experiment on Mass. Avenue seems to work. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that Earthwatch has worked with the City monitoring the trees on Mass. Avenue. He stated that more outreach is needed. Councillor Carlone noted that trees on Third Street were on site in August but not planted. He stated that there is an irrigation strip along the curb. He spoke about the effect of gas on the trees. Councillor Carlone asked if structural soil contains fertilizer. Mr. Lefcourt is unsure, it is being explored. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that trees planted in construction soil in NorthPoint failed. Councillor Carlone stated that 1/7 of the trees are lost every year - will we every catch up. Mr. Lefcourt stated that 150 trees are removed each year and that annually 300-600 trees are planted. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that the cost and the maintenance of a tree will quadruple.

Councillor Cheung asked if water trucks water trees. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that trees are watered by city staff in the gator water bags and is done at night. There are 12,000 trees in the City and there is a need for community involvement. He spoke about the impact of salt on trees. Salt is needed to have streets passable, but not enough to cause damages to trees. He stated that some of the trees have died because of salt.

Councillor McGovern spoke about not planting the right type of trees. He felt that this is odd; is this true. Mr. Lefcourt stated 85 different types of trees are planted in the city. He stated that the climate is more erratic in NE. This is always evolving and there is always trees that will not do well because of a variety of conditions. Cambridge has a diverse canopy forest. He spoke about the Asian beetle and the fact that he has planted a diverse type of trees. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that the street trees are being surveyed throughout the City.

Maggie Booz spoke about the importance of the diversity of the type of trees planted. She stated that there is a difference of opinion on the committee about planting large trees because of the wires. CPP would advocate for larger trees.

Councillor McGovern spoke about the utility companies pruning trees. Mr. Lefcourt stated that he has authority about pruning. He stated that the City will not allow the utilities to prune as much of the tree as they want; he only allows a minimum of pruning. He spoke of the different phases of the utility wires. He tries to eliminate the utility wire/tree conflict. Councillor McGovern spoke about the community outreach and City Sprouts. He suggested adding the care of trees to the City Sprouts curriculum. He asked if students from the Mayor's program are used. He asked how fast the tree wells can be cleaned. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that with 12,000 trees in the city it is difficult. Weeding is extremely challenging. Councillor McGovern stated that if it is a question of resources the City Council has a say in this aspect. He asked Public Works to respond to the questions and the recommendations as to what can and cannot be done for the trees, in writing.

Councillor Cheung made the following motion:

ORDERED: That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to the City Council on whether more resources are needed to maintain the tree canopy, such as the need for an additional water truck and whether mulch and watering cans can be made available to residents for use in tree wells to keep down the weeds.

The motion carried.

Commissioner O'Riordan stated that specifications are being developed and more resources are being applied to the watering and maintenance of trees.

Councillor Cheung asked that when a tree is cut down does the Public Planting Committee have input. Ms. Booz explained that tree hearings are held by Mr. Lefcourt before a tree is cut down. She added that unless a member of the Public Planting Committee attends hearing they do not know about the tree being cut down. She supported the work of the Arborist. It is not in their mandate about cutting down trees.

Councillor Kelley suggested volunteers being given a "tree host" when watering tree. Can there ever be a "DIG ONCE" policy for underground utilities. Commissioner O'Riordan spoke about the high cost of placing utilities underground. Another challenge is having utility companies doing this in an efficient fashion. He stated the coordination challenges are extraordinary.

Councillor Carlone stated that Brookline is implementing a 50 year program where utility is overseeing this with a 2-4% surcharge on the utility bills.

Ms. Wescoat spoke about thinking holistically of where trees are being planted. She stated that trees should not be planted before tested for gas. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that on Third Street it was an issue of a steam pipe. He did not want the City to be reactive for gas leaks. He wanted this looked at in a comprehensive way. Councillor Cheung asked if a gas meter is used by City. Commissioner O'Riordan responded in the affirmative. He spoke about Eversource crews and when it is a Class I leak the gas company is called.

Councillor Cheung remarked that if grates are being removed why not have a grate leveler. Mr. Lefcourt stated that when grate are removed loam is installed and will use Flexi pave. Commissioner O'Riordan stated that the breakdown needs to be investigated. Mr. Nardone stated that the City needs to still buy the hoses and how to distribute to volunteers. Buckets are used for watering and putting mulching. The City feels that this is a better method.

Chantal Eide questioned whether it was realistic to leave it up to residents to water trees or could the city or a contractor water the trees.

Jonathan Lewis, Public Planting Committee, spoke of urban forest management option and what they are. Cambridge has many trees and commitment. It is a question of volume. He stated that the volume is decreasing. He wanted large healthy trees.

Councillor Cheung opened public comment at 4:36 PM.

Eric Grunebaum stated that he was involved with trees being planted in Area 4. He stated that the City is fighting a losing battle and the key is under-resources. A long term commitment is needed. He wanted the City to largely increase the resources for trees. He submitted an article from the The Washington Post titled Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health (ATTACHMENT E). He spoke about the large amount of areas where trees can be planted. He wanted a larger commitment to plant more trees. He wanted more budget and resources provided.

Carol O'Hare, 172 Magazine Street, stated that she is not hearing "practical" solutions. She suggested "Tree Buddy" program. She stated that residents did not receive instructions about how to use the gator bag. She stated that it is expensive to keep replanting trees rather than planting a substantial tree with maintenance instructions. She suggested the City mail leaflets to residents who love trees and would gladly care for a tree in front of the their property. She commented that she has never seen a watering truck water the trees. She added that inexpensive things can be done. She suggested Runnels. She stated that Memorial Drive Sycamore trees are dead limbs and accidents waiting to happen. Her e-mails is attached (ATTACHMENTS F-1, F-2 & F3)

Marilyn Wellons, 651 Green Street, stated that the best tree are maples and provide a canopy. She spoke about the cucumber tree on City hall law. Major canopy trees are required for carbon sequestration. She wanted the City Council and Public Planting Committee to save mature trees especially in Volpe Center. She stated that at the Cambridge Common mature trees have been removed. Tax base will always trump trees. The City's policy is a numbers game and not the carbon sequestration. She stated that birds benefit from weeds.

Bob Richards, 395 Broadway, former Antrim Street residents. He stated that Antrim Street was proud of their trees and a tree fund was created for trees. He spoke about a woman chaining herself to the Tulip Trees. He stated his appreciation for those who actually plant the trees. He loves trees. He stated people forget the beauty of trees. He spoke about the variety of trees around the Golf Course. He stated that he wanted to see as many trees as possible. He is concerned about trees removed that are not replaced. He wanted to know the official reason that Harvard removed trees from the Art Center. He stated that Harvard wanted to remove their trees on Dunster and Holyoke Street and that a caliber tree be put in its place if they are removed. There are 4 mature trees at Forbes Plaza that Harvard wants to remove and he wanted the City Council to get involved.

Karin Weller, 12 Humboldt Street, stated that there were no trees on this street and she was given $125 for a tree and she and her husband planted the entire street and the trees were removed because of the storms and they cannot be replaced because of the width of the sidewalk. She wanted this reviewed so that street trees can be planted. She asked if the reddish material is permeable. She was told yes. She wanted a weed whacker used by the City for the wells rather than the substance used. She stated that the bump outs would be more superior to have tree on the bump out. The tree openings should be made larger. She is concerned with the loss of the trees. She stated that Lee Street has a beautify canopy. She suggested a planter in the median strip on Mass. Avenue.

John Pitkin, 18 Fayette Street, strongly supported the tree volume comment. He wanted the approach to be more holistic. He stated that the public resources needed to be mobilized. Participation needs to be more flexible and the place to start is to overcome ignorance and innovation. This cannot be micromanaged. He stated that the recycled food waste could be used for fertilization.

James Williamson, 1000 Jackson Place, stated his concern about the tree removed from the Cambridge Library. What happened to this tree? He wanted stumps to be sculpted. He asked are tree grates bad or do they need to be handled differently. He stated that the Housing Authority removed many trees and he wanted the City to encourage the CHA not to do this. He stated that it is proposed that a tree be removed in the area between Manning Apartments and library. He announced that Harvard withdrew their proposal to remove four trees. He wanted the health of these trees investigated.

Councillor Cheung thanked all those present for their attendance.

The following e-mails were received:

Megan Brook, 103 Inman Street, stating her support for a combination of tree planting and care (ATTACHMENT G).

Jan Devereux suggested that the runnels could be piloted on New Street when it is reconstructed (ATTACHMENT H).

Charlotte Karney, 41Granite Street, wanted a comprehensive planting of appropriate trees planted on Granite Street (ATTACHMENT I).

Michael Hawley questioned the stumps and empty tree wells in the GIS maps in East Cambridge and suggested art for utility covers (ATTACHMENT J).

Doug Brown, Vice President, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, commented on the City's plan to make any progress towards replacing all missing street trees and the lack of data on the tree inventory (ATTACHMENT K).

Carolyn Shipley, 15 Laurel Street, stated that many empty tree wells were not listed and that the state of the City trees is poor (ATTACHMENT L).

Laura L. Nash, Ph.D., 11 Buckingham Street, supported the continued expansion of public space tree planting in Cambridge and concern for consultation and maintenance of tree wells and tree plantings (ATTACHMENT M).

Elena Saporta in support of the Public Planting Committee's effort to improve the quality of Cambridge's tree canopy (ATTACHMENT N).

The hearing adjourned at 4:35 P.M.

For the Committee,

Councillor Leland Cheung, Chair
Health and Environment Committee


View attached file

Craig Kelley with Hope sign