An Urban Forest Master Plan for Concord

By Brian Rosborough

Many towns have them, Concord does not. At least not in the sense that Henry David Thoreau campaigned for. It’s the protection of Concord trees.

Concord can learn from other places.

In 2016 Cambridge Public Works created a public-private partnership to enhance its canopy of trees. Drawing on the rich selection of skilled residents a community board was established with 18 citizens representing architects, engineers, landscapers, gardeners, artists, educators, and town merchants. Their mission was to create an Urban Forest Master Plan for Cambridge. Over five years, $1.5 million was raised from public budgets and private contributions. Street tree surveys conducted by Public Works and research organizations like Earthwatch identified and documented the inequitable distribution and condition of trees in Cambridge neighborhoods, urban and residential.

Tree planting in the Cambridge public right of way increased from 300 new trees/year to over 1000 trees/year and is charted to reach 4000 trees/year in a decade. The investments in the UFMP galvanized urban development in Cambridge to think more progressively about adaptation to climate change, mitigation of CO2 emissions, and the rights to shade for visitors and the underserved in a crowded urban environment.

In 2017 Concord Public Works commissioned a Davey Tree Survey and Inventory of Concord’s 23,870 public trees. (Tree Inventory Link). The Town’s trees in 2017 were found to be in Fair Condition with good Diversity (77 families, 184 species) with manageable risks for safety and disease found in 19,500 street trees along 107 miles of road and 3950 park and cemetery trees.

Back then 2,135 locations were indicated for newly planted trees. More pruning and stump removal was recommended as well as a heartier diversity of trees to withstand disease and climate disruptions in future. Concord has lost its mature Elms and Ash, and has too many Norway Maples and White Pines in our mix. The Davey Tree Survey concluded with a recommendation that 250 trees be planted in Concord for a minimum of seven years to sustain our current village canopy.  For many reasons the Select Board has not kept pace with the “no net loss of trees” goal approved in the Town’s Climate Action plan but the CPW has filed plans and a budget request for a 2023 renewal of the Davey Tree Survey that would include i-Tree ECO accounting for the CO2 emissions absorbed by different species of Concord trees. (Link to Davey Tree surveys)

If you want to learn more about the values of Concord trees, from our own Urban Forest Planner Henry David Thoreau, read the enchanting 2017 book ‘Thoreau and the Language of Trees’ written by Concord historian Richard Higgins who also wrote the Introduction to the 2017 Davey Tree Survey of Concord Trees.

Rosborough is a member of Friends of Concord Trees

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