Following the devastation of last year’s tornadoes, which destroyed an estimated 4,000 trees, Springfield residents decided to step up to the plate and rebuild their neighborhoods. ReGreen Springfield created the Tree Planting Initiative, which has made tremendous progress in its efforts to restore vibrancy to Springfield, Massachusetts. During the project’s initial phase, there were over 800 trees planted in tornado affected neighborhoods using $385,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds directed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER). Due to the initiative’s incredible success, DOER allocated an additional $125,000 of ARRA funding to expand efforts as part of its ReBuild Western Massachusetts program. This allowed for a total of 300 more plantings, bumping up the total to 1,140 trees.
Trees provide far more than a respite from the mid-afternoon sun. From off-setting carbon emissions, to reducing the Heat Island Effect (a build-up of thermal energy in urban spaces), trees are a multi-faceted tool for remedying environmental problems. Trees trap carbon dioxide, one of the major contributing greenhouse gases, and release oxygen into the environment. They can help to reduce urban runoff and erosion, absorb sound and noise pollution, and reduce airborne dust levels. During the summer months, the shade created by healthy trees can help to decrease cooling demands in nearby households and reduce ambient air temperature across neighborhoods. Alternatively, trees can serve as windbreaks for buildings during the winter months and help cut home heating costs for affected homeowners.
These inherent traits are all well and good, but dare I say it, the personal significance of trees should not be overlooked. Whether it’s the maple tree in the front yard whose branches you swung through as a child or the giant oak that you carved your initials in, a tree is more than a carbon dioxide sponge. For many of us, they represent the idea of “home,” or a time in one’s life. A time when everything was simpler, and it felt safe to catch fireflies in the backyard beneath that old apple tree on a balmy summer evening.
Springfield’s Tree Planting Initiative has helped replace some of these anchors of time and memory lost in the storms of last summer. Excuse the sappiness (and this pun), but I hope these newly planted trees will provide the families of Springfield with a lifetime of new memories.
ReGreen Springfield's efforts are profiled on its Facebook page.