Editorial: Boosting tree care education can only lead to good things

  • A turning tree is selectively illuminated by the late afternoon sun along the Connecticut River at Unity Park in Turners Falls. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Published: 6/12/2017 4:32:17 PM

We do love our trees in Franklin County. And no less in the more developed towns of Greenfield and Montague.

So it was not surprising to learn recently that three years of discussion by the Franklin County Technical School and the Greenfield Tree Committee found a way to combine two worthy goals: creating a tree nursery to educate students and providing shade trees for Greenfield and other towns at an affordable cost to taxpayers.

The idea came to fruition last year when David Detmold, chairman of the Montague Tree Advisory Committee, and Kurt Richardson, an instructor in Franklin County Technical School’s Landscaping and Horticulture program, joined Greenfield’s Nancy Hazard in the effort. The group sought and won an $18,000, five-year grant from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to create a tree nursery on the grounds of the Tech School.

“We wanted to partner with the Tech School so that we could plant more trees in Greenfield and so that young people could learn about how to plant and care for trees. This in turn could lead to having skilled people in our community who care about and know how to care for trees for many years to come,” explained Hazard of the Greenfield Tree Committee.

Richardson said they will plant 75 trees per year over the next five years. After five years, the students can begin harvesting and selling trees and use the money to buy replacement stock. That way the nursery can become financially self-sufficient. “Projects like this really fulfill our mission to provide services to the communities that support us,” Richardson said.

In Greenfield and Montague, there is a significant need for trees, as the towns fell older trees that are in decline. In recent years, more trees have been removed than planted, according to the tree committees. A 2014 Greenfield tree inventory found that more than half of the shade trees that line the streets of Greenfield are aging Norway maples that are likely to die over the next decade. The Greenfield Tree Committee hopes to replace these non-native trees with native species and cultivars that will do better in our local ecology. Greenfield, which received a 2016 National Arbor Day Foundation Tree City Award, hopes to plant at least 50 trees a year over the next decade; the nursery could potentially provide most of those.

Detmold told the Recorder that this program will help because most towns in Franklin County these days are too strapped financially to maintain their own shade tree nurseries. In addition to caring for trees in their nursery, it is hoped the students will plant and prune trees along Greenfield and Montague streets. Students will also learn how to identify trees, conduct site analysis and select appropriate trees for the landscape, install irrigation systems, learn about soil health, quality tree care and about running a tree nursery business.

This was a smart idea, and Greenfield, Montague and the Tech School deserve thanks and credit for conceiving and delivering a program that will provide affordable trees to shade our streets and public parks, while bolstering a Tech School nursery program that will bring the benefits of arboriculture skills back to the wider community.

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