By Lisa D. Welsh
Worcester, MA (January 30, 2009)- First there was shock, then anger, and eventually acceptance that 6,000 trees were affected by the Asian longhorned beetle and needed to be removed. Now there’s hope. Worcester Tree Campaign is a five-year plan to replant 30,000 trees on public and private property. It’s the first effort to get the public involved in what has been a federally led challenge.
“As tragic and difficult as this is, it’s an opportunity to make our urban forest stronger and better,” said U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, who helped organize the event with Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray.
“From the beginning (of the Asian longhorned beetle discovery), people have been asking ‘How do we get involved?’ It’s time for a city and central Mass-wide network for people to plug into without bureaucracy,” Mr. Murray said. Worcester Tree Campaign brings together the expertise of federal and state conservation divisions, the organizational tools of municipalities and manpower of the community.
Former Regional Environmental Council executive director Peggy Middaugh and Paul Belsito, who was former state Sen. Edward Augustus’ Worcester district director, will coordinate the new partnership of federal, state and local efforts. A special event is in the early stages of planning, but will be held in April around the environmental holidays Earth Day, April 22, and Arbor Day, April 24.
“In a kind of morbid way, the best place for the Asian longhorned beetle to show up in Massachusetts is Worcester,” said Eric Seaborn of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s urban and community forestry bureau. The professionalism of city management, the interaction of communication between its agencies and the commitment of its community gives this reforestation effort many advantages.”
Yesterday, many offered ideas such as replanting trees where they won’t interfere with lawns or utility wires. Lance McKee of Circuit Avenue offered that a local ordinance should determine how close a tree can be planted to a building so that it can’t obstruct solar paneling.
Noting that the Mohegan Council Boy Scouts will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, Executive Director Jay Garee said the replanting would give the Boy Scouts a great opportunity to shepherd its good will through the energy of its 4,700 scouts.
The Worcester Tree Campaign also will help raise the 50 percent required to match $24.5 million in USDA federal dollars through 25 cent donations of school children, the funds of Worcester’s larger community foundations, such as the Nathaniel Wheeler Trust, or tap into a trust run by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation fund of donations that will be tapped later this spring to purchase trees.
Even before the beetle eradication program began last year, organizers said the city was experiencing heavy losses in the tree canopy. Evelyn Herwitz’s 2001 book, “Trees at Risk: Reclaiming the Urban Forest,” which estimated that the city had steadily lost publicly owned trees through much of the 20th century as the numbers fell from 50,000 to 20,000 at the turn of the millennium was referenced several times and copies of the book were available for a $15 donation to Worcester Tree Campaign.
According to Ms. Herwitz’s book, the Asian longhorned beetle is the latest threat to Worcester’s urban landscape. There was the chestnut blight in the early 1900s, an ice storm in 1921, Dutch elm disease of the 1930s, the hurricane of 1938 and the tornado of 1953, both of which affected parts of the same Burncoat neighborhood attacked by beetles.
Worcester Telegram and Gazette- City reforestation planned
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