Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates 30,000th Greening the Gateway Cities Program Tree Planting

As part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s celebration of Climate Week in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker today joined Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides and state and local officials to plant the milestone 30,000th tree through the Commonwealth’s Greening the Gateway Cities Program in the City of Westfield’s General Shepard Park. Lynn was included in this program with a $20,000 grant to install Preparing street tree belt sites for new plantings by removing pavement and stumps, adding soil and mulch and  watering recently planted trees. Additionally, the Administration announced the award of $245,000 in grants to 14 municipalities and non-profit organizations through the program that will support broader tree planting efforts and build the capacity and partnerships needed to make communities more resilient to climate change. 

“The planting of 30,000 trees by the Greening the Gateway Cities Program serves as a great example of what can be achieved when state government, municipalities, and dedicated non-profit organizations work together on behalf of the public,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This kind of collaboration is more important than ever as we work to address climate change and the increasing heat and storm intensity that comes with it, which is why our Administration has proposed a significant investment in climate resiliency and open space through our federal ARPA spending proposal.”

“Through this longstanding, successful program, we are expanding green space and improving public health in our underserved communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The grants awarded today will help our communities generate local interest and develop a network of community volunteers that will help us pursue a significant expansion of tree canopy that will directly benefit the public now and well into the future.”

The Administration awarded grants to seven non-profit organizations to conduct resident outreach and promote awareness of the program, and seven municipalities to help their public works departments collaborate with the tree planting program.

“As climate change leads to longer and more intense heat waves, programs like Greening the Gateway Cities help us address the urban heat island effect by expanding tree canopy that cleans our air, provides cooling and shade, and makes our neighborhoods more beautiful,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration has supported a significant expansion of this successful program since coming into office because it advances critical priorities that we share with our communities, including environmental justice, equity, and using nature-based solutions to make our Gateway Cities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

The Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP) is a partnership between the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Urban & Community Forestry Program, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), along with Gateway Cities and local grassroots organizations. Notably, the program utilizes trees to cool neighborhoods and reduce the “urban heat island” effect where large areas of pavement cause significantly hotter living conditions. The tree plantings are also focused within Environmental Justice neighborhoods – areas with over 25% of residents who are low income, minority, or non-English speaking.

DCR foresters work with neighborhood non-profit organizations to help with outreach and community support. Extensive tree planting in local neighborhoods addresses climate justice by giving residents the same access to cool greenspace and shade as other communities. The program also strives to reduce energy use by shading and sheltering neighborhoods and to reduce flooding by soaking up stormwater.

“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to make investments in our state’s natural resources by promoting the Greening the Gateway Cities Program,” said Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “More trees across the Commonwealth will improve the air we breathe, reduce energy consumption, and beautify our neighborhoods.”

Through the Greening the Gateway Cities Program, the state will invest $5 million over the next year in state capital and energy efficiency funds to plant about 8,000 trees averaging six feet in height within fourteen gateway cities. The program will not only produce energy savings, but will also benefit the local economy and create jobs by hiring foresters and tree planting crews from the cities where planting takes place. The program trains crews in proper tree planting and care and many employees find permanent work in the landscaping industry.  The GGCP is expected to yield more than twice the investment made by the Administration in energy cost saving for residents and businesses as the trees mature.

“On behalf of the people of Westfield I would like to thank the Baker Administration, Secretary Theoharides and Commissioner Montgomery for their dedication to greening our older communities,” said Westfield Mayor Don Humason. “I’d like to congratulate the Commonwealth on this important milestone of 30,000 trees planted as part of the Greening the Gateway Cities program. Westfield is proud of its yearly designation as a Tree City and delighted to be a part of this vibrant program.”

“The Greening the Gateway Cities Program has brought new trees and enormous benefits to urban residential areas across our entire Commonwealth,” said State Senator John Velis (D-Westfield). “With increased tree canopy cover, communities like Westfield can reduce household heating and cooling energy use and can provide cleaner air, water, and an overall better quality of life for residents. General Shepard Park and our entire Westfield community will benefit from the trees being planted today for years to come.”

“The trees in our city are such a great asset, and I’m thankful that we’re able to bring in more green to brighten up the community,” said State Representative Kelly Pease (R-Westfield).

With a defined goal to increase the urban tree canopy to 5-10 percent in select neighborhoods in each Gateway City, the program is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs by approximately $230 a year for an average household once the trees reach maturity. To date, the program has planted almost 30,000 trees in 18 Gateway Cities – the equivalent of adding 550 acres, or nearly one square mile, of new forest to these cities. Residents who sign-up for the GGCP will be provided planted trees at no cost as long as they commit to watering the trees for two years. 

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