City hires first Urban Forestry Fellow

In Erica Holm’s ideal world, you can see the City through the trees.

Holm is Lynn’s first Urban Forestry Fellow, responsible for overseeing the management, care and preservation of trees in the City and hired with grant money obtained through the Arbor Day Foundation.

“You can feel the people of Lynn are excited to be committed to urban forestry,” said Holm, who started June 10. “A lot more goes into urban forestry than you might think – pruning, planting, inventory. A lot of operations goes into growing and maintaining trees in an altered landscape,” such as an urban setting.

Holm comes to Lynn from Boston, where she served as Mass Audubon’s first urban ecologist, charged with managing the intersection of nature and people. Prior to Mass Audubon, Holm managed tree care and field operations for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, starting when she moved to Boston from New Hampshire in 2019.

Holm noted that Chapter 87 of Massachusetts General Laws protects public shade trees that are in the public right-of-way, in street tree pits and sometimes including park and cemetery trees, for example. As she settles into her new position in Lynn, she will be taking stock of all aspects of the current state of tree life in the City. She will also be collaborating with the Lynn DPW, which has a tree crew, and Park Ranger/Tree Warden Dan Small, who oversees Lynn Woods.

“Lynn Woods is a huge part of the urban forest,” Holm said. “I’m looking forward to working with Dan, even though my main planting efforts will be focused more in the southeastern, under-canopied parts of the city.”

A University of New Hampshire graduate with a degree in Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist, Holm pointed out the valuable role trees can play in cities.

“Having a healthy tree canopy and healthy urban forestry can lead to healthier outcomes for residents,” she said. “Areas that are under-canopied can be a lot hotter.” That becomes an even bigger issue in extreme heat such as this week.

Holm said trees can also help mitigate flooding during heavy rainfall, as they absorb water through their roots. “Trees also store carbon, which has climate implications,” she said.

Holm referred to the 3-30-300 rule, published by Professor Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch, that states everyone should be able to see three trees from their home, there should be at least 30-percent tree canopy coverage in every neighborhood and everyone should be within 300 meters of urban green space. It can be more challenging to achieve those objectives in an urban setting, but Holm sounds like she is more than up for the task.

“We’ll plant at least 150 trees through this grant,” she said, noting that she will be doing an inventory to determine where trees have been lost, where they are most needed and where people have requested them.

As part of her role, Holm will have the chance to work with youth, with a goal of providing workforce development opportunities for those who may be interested in pursuing urban forestry and arboriculture. In her first few days on the job, she had a discussion with someone who works with youth and they discussed the fact that the presence of trees can correlate to social and mental well-being.

The Planning Department successfully applied for the grant, which is worth $550,000 over three years, allowing Holm to be hired on a full-time basis. The funding will also be used to: establish a community engagement plan; expose 150 youth to green infrastructure jobs through summer jobs program or school visits; devise and implement an urban forestry plan that includes a partial tree inventory and assessment of where new trees are needed given equity and environmental considerations; implement a new green infrastructure project; and develop a plan to continue urban forestry work with community members, youth, and nonprofits after the fellowship has concluded.

“We are excited to have someone with Erica’s expertise and experience,” Mayor Jared C. Nicholson said. “Trees play an important role in any community and we want to make sure we are maximizing the opportunity to benefit from their presence in Lynn.”

Anyone wanting more information on urban forestry can reach Holm at 781-586-6729.

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