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Downtown trees

We’re pleased there’s interest in seeing that Greenfield, particularly its downtown, makes a good impression.

A big factor here is appearance. That’s what was a driving force behind Streetscape, the multimillion-dollar, multi-phase downtown improvement project that was done some 15 years or so ago. Part of that effort was to bring back, to a great extent, a tree-lined Main Street and downtown generally.

We’d like to think that almost everyone is aware of the important role trees play in the urban landscape. Besides their visual beauty, the trees provide shade that helps keep the temperatures down during the summertime, a benefit not only to those outside on the streets but one reflected inside as well. Past studies done by the Department of Energy show that properly located shade trees can help reduce air-conditioning use, something that helps cut down on electrical power consumption, which in turn, reduces the costs faced by consumers.

And let’s not forget the part trees play in providing oxygen and absorbing greenhouse gases.

We think Greenfield — a town that has proudly worn the “Tree City USA” designation — understands the importance of trees and their part in beautification, in the revitalization of downtown and in “environmental resilience.”

As we said, we’re glad there is active interest here as witnessed by the talk earlier this week about a Conway School of Landscape Design report that examined downtown Greenfield and a number of proposals aimed at improvements. We’re sure that there were plenty of good thoughts and ideas.

For us, the overriding factor is the trees, and we look to our recent experience with downtown to provide guidance. It’s all well and good to invest in downtown trees, including those varieties deemed “urban friendly.” But buying and planting the trees can’t be the end of the active role that Greenfield takes. The overriding reason many of the newly planted trees downtown didn’t survive was because no one was responsible for their care.

Vigilant watering is one of the keys to getting these transplanted trees through those initial years. That’s gardening 101. Instead, the watering was left to individuals along Main Street to provide as volunteers.

It didn’t work.

The town has to invest not only in buying and planting the trees but also in the follow-through work necessary to see these trees take root and prosper. Just as the Department of Public Works is entrusted with the care and maintenance of the parks in town, so, too, should downtown trees fall under its umbrella. And if it doesn’t have the right equipment to do the job, perhaps the Fire Department can be enlisted to help.

Whatever way the town decides to go, though, it must be willing to budget for this work.

If we want to bring the greenery back to downtown Greenfield, we ’ve got to be willing to spend some green.

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