Tag Archives: The Worcester Tree Initiative has planted more than 30000 trees in Worcester

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree: Pine or Plastic?

By Derek Lirange, Worcester Tree Initiative

Do you feel that chill in the air? Tis the season to deck the halls, listen to holly jolly jingles, and sip cocoa. Ask 10 people what their favorite holiday of the year is and most of them will tell you it’s Christmas! Even though we stress out at malls trying to find the perfect gifts, completely derail our dietary goals, and have to adjust to the cooling temperatures there’s still something magical about this time of year that can’t be overwhelmed.

One of the favorite traditions this time of year is decorating a Christmas tree. It’s a tradition that has a long history with its roots in pagan tradition rather than Christian. Evergreens are a mark of life in a landscape of leafless trees and many religions would celebrate that life by bringing evergreen branches and trees into their homes. According to The History Channel’s History of Christmas Trees the practice became popularized for Christians when Queen Victoria of England encouraged her husband, a German who had been raised decorating a tree each winter with his family, to bring the tradition to into their home. The masses caught on and the rest is history!

Decorating trees remains a favorite tradition but now we have the choice, do you buy a real tree each year? Or should you invest in a plastic tree, which are becoming increasingly realistic looking, even up close? The issue can be polarizing with people taking strong stances for both sides. Those for real trees argue that there’s nothing that can replace the look and smell of the real deal, and there’s a certain sentimentality to going out and picking the perfect tree. Proponents of fake trees like the ease of setting the tree up, the fact that they don’t have to water the tree, or vacuum up needles, or find a way to dispose of the tree at the end of the season. Additionally, some might argue that cutting trees down is bad for the environment! We’re talking about millions of trees a year that get cut down.

As tree people you might thing that we here are Worcester Tree Initiative are proponents of fake trees however the issue isn’t so clear as it may seem. Consider that Christmas tree farms are a business, for every tree they cut down they have to plant another tree in order to have more to sell in the years to come. Furthermore, plastic trees do eventually need to be replaced, meaning more plastic in landfills that won’t degrade for thousands of years, and I personally take issue with that. Natural Christmas trees biodegrade. In Worcester they become part of the municipal compost which is free to Worcester residents and available at the yard waste facility on Millbury Street.

Personally, I like real trees, I grew up picking out a real tree with my family and I’d like to continue the tradition with a wife and kids of my own some day. But, admittedly, there are a lot of good reasons to go with a plastic tree. Whichever you choose I hope you love your tree and that it brings you joy each time you look at it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Worcester Tree Initiative!

From the Worcester Tree Initiative


Dodge Park Cleanup!

Join us on Wednesday, Sept 9, at Dodge Park on Randolph Road, in the Burncoat neighborhood!

5:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m.

We provide the rakes, bags, etc. You provide the people power!

Be there, tree lovers!



(you can learn so much American history – and Worcester history! – at the magnificent Worcester Historical Museum, located at 30 Elm St. One of the many history books they sell … pic: R.T.)

Free 2015 Citizenship Classes!

Are you ready and eligible to become a U.S. Citizen?

Starting September 24, Catholic Charities is providing citizenship classes at 10 Hammond St.

Thursdays from 6:00 – 8:00 pm or Fridays from 9:00 – 11:00 am.

Ongoing registration through November.

For more information please call Maddy Hennessy at 508 860 2261 or email  mhennessy@ccworc.org.

FREE trees!

Oak Leaves After Rain copyOak leaves after rain

By Ruth Seward

The Worcester Tree Initiative has a new project that will get free trees to people in Quinsigamond Village and Main South.  In partnership with the Blackstone Headwater’s Coalition, the Environmental Protection Agency  and the City of Worcester, we will be planting trees in the Main South and Quinsigamond Village neighborhoods to help reduce flooding problems in those areas and to restore our waterways and the Blackstone River to  healthier conditions. Both Quinsigamond Village and Main South will receive 50 public or private trees.  These trees will be given away to residents to be planted at their homes, planted in front of businesses with space or planted in other public places in the community that might benefit from having new trees.

If you are interested in a tree please contact the Worcester Tree Initiative by emailing us at staff@treeworcester.org or leaving a message on our office phone @508-752-1980.

Worcester Tree Initiative has taken on several new projects this spring that have benefitted the residents of Worcester.  The first was our seven week long Worcester Boys and Girls Club educational program where we taught youth principles of stewardship, leadership, and advocacy in the urban forest thanks to a grant provided by the Alliance for Community Trees. The second was the Arbor Day Celebration at Green Hill Park where we partnered with the American Chestnut Foundation, the City of Worcester, the Green Hill Park Coalition, and the Worcester Garden Club to plant 15 blight resistant American Chestnut trees.  We have also planted another community orchard at Ascentria’s New Lands Farm where many Worcester refugee families farm their own food.  These projects along with the newest project in Quinsigamond Village and Main South, help keep a healthy urban forest in and around Worcester.

Trees are important in both a forest and a city.  They give off oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide in our air.  Studies show that urban areas with more trees have lower crime rates and better health.   More trees in a city mean increased property values, increased health benefits, decreased air pollution and decreased energy usage.   People linger by stores and restaurants that are surrounded by trees so business increases in establishments on tree lined streets.   Residents go outside more when more trees are part of the landscape.  Trees are a low maintenance alternative, once they have been established. They also reduce storm water runoff, or rain water that does not soak into the ground.

Storm water runoff is a big problem in cities because we have so many impermeable surfaces like rooftops, roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. Water can’t soak through these surfaces so it runs off somewhere else sometimes causing floods.  Streets close as they become waterlogged and impossible to drive through.   Basements can fill with water when there’s a crack in the foundation. Because of the massive amounts of impervious surfaces the urban environment can be overloaded by water of large storms and we get left with a big mess.

Besides creating flooding conditions, stormwater runoff carries with it pollutants and road debris as it travels to city drains.   Pollutants like excess fertilizers and pesticides, pet waste, bacteria, grease and oil, and heavy metals from brakes and rusts infiltrate our water treatment system or in some cases, drain directly into our natural waterways.   Over time such pollution accumulates and becomes a major problem for anything that lives in, drinks, or swims in that water.

All of the water in Worcester eventually finds its way to the Blackstone River, the head of which sits in Quinsigamond Village. Pollution of Worcester’s waterways has been a major contributor to pollution of the Blackstone River since before the Industrial Revolution. That pollution, along with contributions from every other smaller watershed along the way, has led to the devastation of Narragansett Bay.

More and more, urban planners and urban engineers throughout the United States are looking to set the urban equation straight by utilizing green infrastructure wherever they can. Parking lots no longer need to be impenetrable solid roads where pools of water and ice create hazards for pedestrians and drivers.  Instead they can include drainage options and vegetation components to eliminate surface pooling. City landscapes can include plants and trees, which enhance the beauty of the city while creating places for storm water to go thereby reducing  flooding in our streets and pollution in our waterways.

Trees are a big part of storm water interception. They absorb gallons of water through their roots systems.  Tree canopies capture and store rainfall then release water into the atmosphere, preventing it from becoming waste water.  Tree roots and leaf litter also create soil conditions that promote the infiltration of rainwater into the soil. The closer we can get to imitating nature in the city, by reducing impermeable surfaces and letting water soak into the ground, the cleaner and healthier our waterways will be. In fact, some of the cleanest water in the world comes from the Quabbin Reservoir, which is the water supply for Boston. The water that the trees and soil naturally filter goes into the Quabbin and when it gets to Boston it needs little filtering before it goes to people’s sinks!

A great way to get trees into the city landscape is to plant them in people’s yards.  Even small yards can be good places for small trees. Trees thrive when planted in areas where they have room for their roots to grow and where they are treated with care.

The Worcester Tree Initiative in partnership with the Blackstone Headwaters Coalition, the Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Worcester, is looking for 100 tree planting sites in  Main South and the Quinsigamond Village throughout the spring and fall.  We are looking for 50 spots where people want city trees planted in their front yard or in the grass strip along the sidewalk and 50 spots where people would like to plant a tree somewhere else in their yard.  So far – close to 50 locations have been identified and we are eager to finish our project by mid June.  Please contact the Worcester Tree Initiative by email: staff@treeworcester.org or by phone: 508-752-1800.  We are happy to get trees into your neighborhood!

This project has been made possible through the partnership of the City of Worcester, Worcester Tree Initiative and the Blackstone Headwaters Coalition and has been funded through a Healthy Communities grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.  The purpose of the project is to plant trees to make the Blackstone River healthier and to reduce flooding after storms in Worcester.

Go, Worcester Tree Initiative, go!!!!


WTI – aka “The Tree People” – in action!

My name is Derek Lirange and I work for the Worcester Tree Initiative (WTI). People often affectionately refer to us as ‘the tree people’. WTI has been working to help Worcester recover from the Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation discovered in 2009. Over the course of the past five years we have worked together with the City of Worcester and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation to replant 30,000 trees. We have worked alongside numerous community partners to achieve this goal and in October 2014 the goal was met by planting the 30,000th tree at Burncoat High School, in one of the most greatly affected neighborhoods in Worcester.

Besides the mission to replant 30,000 trees, Worcester Tree Initiative has also been committed to educating people about the importance of trees to their community. Many people never realized the importance of trees in their neighborhood until the trees were removed. Worcester Tree Initiative organizes public training events, goes to schools to teach students, and shares the many benefits of trees with the community. Looking ahead we will continue with this mission and we hope that Worcester will become a city full of ‘tree people’!

With this goal in mind we are particularly excited about working on the CSX Youth Tree Stewards Grant, which we received from the Alliance for Community Trees. This grant has given us the opportunity to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester to teach youth from the inner city about the importance of trees and how to care for them. We will have seven sessions with the youth in the program, and each session will focus on a particular theme, stewardship, leadership, or advocacy. By working with the same kids over the course of seven weeks we will have the special opportunity of forming relationships and watching them learn. Our hope is that at the end of this program these youth will know more about what ‘tree people’ do and why it is important, and hopefully be inspired to do that work too.

Before we get there though we have a few obstacles to overcome. The Athletic Director at the Boys and Girls Club, Ruben Rosado, told us that most of the kids he spends his time with have never cared for a plant but they do spend a lot of time playing video games or watching TV. He tends to houseplants and has planted gardens around his home. He has found an enormous sense of satisfaction from watching his plants flourish and eating the fruits of his labor. He strongly supports the Youth Tree Stewards program because sees it as a chance for kids to “get away from technology and into nature.”

That is a chance that some inner city youth do not often get. We played a little game together during our first class and I found that many of our kids had never planted a tree, climbed a tree, or hiked through the woods. I know that coming from a suburb I had different opportunities than these youth do, but I cannot help but feel they are missing out. I would not be a tree person today if it were not for my regular walks in the woods.

In lieu of a field trip in 30-degree weather we had to find a way to show these kids how amazing trees are. So we told them about some of the most incredible trees in the world. Students found it incredible that the widest tree in the world, at more than 46 feet in diameter, is nearly as wide as a basketball court. They used a measuring tape to see just how big the tallest tree in the world is. For your information it is nearly twice as tall as the Boys and Girls Club building is long, it is 387 feet tall! And they could hardly believe that the oldest tree in the world, a nearly 5,000-year-old tree, is older than the Great Pyramid of Giza. By the end of class each student’s jaw had dropped at least once, it was a good way to kick the program off.

This was just the appetizer though; as the weather gets nicer we will start spending more of our time outside and connecting students to nature. This connection is a critical piece of getting people to see the value of nature. As I said before, many people do not realize the importance of a city’s urban forest. Trees and parks are usually thought of as amenities, not necessities; they are not seen as part of the infrastructure. But trees are not just for decoration and they do more than give us oxygen. Trees promote greater health, save people money, produce food, and green spaces within the city protect the natural world outside of the city.

For example, a large tree that casts shade on a house will cool the house down and reduce the need for air conditioning. This reduces energy costs and also avoids energy use, which results in fewer emissions. That same tree will intercept rainwater on its way to the sewer, slowing the water on its way to rivers and streams. This helps to stabilize these water bodies and keeps them clean for aquatic life and for people who want to swim, boat, or fish. Trees clean the air, which in cities can be very dirty and lead to poor respiratory health. And of course, some trees produce fruit, which you might have as a healthy snack or harvest for sale. Worcester Tree Initiative has planted numerous urban orchards and fruiting groves for private and public use.

There is also a lot of research connecting trees to health in ways that you would never have expected, like reduced crime rates, higher test grades, and healthier birth weights. The most famous study came out nearly 30 years ago showing that hospital patients with a view of green spaces outside their window recovered faster and took fewer medications than patients whose rooms looked out onto the wall of another building. There is clearly more to trees than meets the eye! Cities need people who understand these benefits to be advocates for the urban forest.

In the Youth Tree Stewards Program we will talk about all of this and we will also give students the skills to be stewards of the environment. In our time together students will learn the basics of tree identification, pruning, and how to plant and care for trees. Together we will plant 5 trees at the Worcester Boys and Girls Club and we will do maintenance on the trees in their parking lot.

The Youth Tree Stewards program will also give students the opportunity to meet professional ‘tree people’. Many people never realize that there is a whole world of opportunities to explore by working with the natural world.

We are very excited to welcome professional arborist Melissa Levangie as a guest speaker to talk about arboriculture. She will be showing students her climbing gear and demonstrating climbing techniques. She teaches with a lot of enthusiasm and whenever she presents people of every age leave excited and talking about what she just taught them. This presentation will be a chance to show young people a set of skills that is totally new to them.

We hope that by showing the Youth Tree Stewards what an arborist does and connecting them to plants and nature they will realize that there are a lot of opportunities for them to work and play outside.  They could be good stewards of the environment as landscapers or arborists and they could be leaders working in a national park or right in the urban forest. There are all sorts of tree people in the world and we want to ensure that urban youth know that they can be tree people too.

This exciting program has just begun and it has already been a lot of fun. The students are engaged, asking questions, and taking part in activities. We will finish up our classroom time in the beginning of May but for the kids in the Youth Tree Stewards program, that may just be the beginning of a very green future.