Plan Calls for Planting Hundreds of Trees in Watertown

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Charlie Breitrose

Watertown resident David Jay finishes planting a tree outside Hosmer Elementary School in honor of Arbor Day.

Town officials seek to plant 250 trees a year in Watertown, some of which will be done by the Town, but others will be done by non-municipal groups. Those groups include Trees for Watertown. Pictured here, Watertown resident David Jay of Trees for Watertown plants a tree outside Hosmer Elementary School in honor of Arbor Day.

Hundreds of trees will be planted in Watertown each year as part of an effort to increase the number of street trees and tree canopy in town.

The Tree Planting Program calls for planting 2,500 trees over 10 years. It was discussed by the Town Council at its Aug. 13 meeting after being the subject of a couple of joint meetings for the Public Works and Rules & Ordinances committees.

The plan looks at how to prioritize planting of trees in neighborhoods with the least canopy. The subcommittee members also discussed how, if a homeowner does not want a tree in front of their home, it will not survive. The town will also seek ways to make homeowners aware of the tree-planting program and to request a tree.

Some of the 250 trees planted annually will be through Watertown Department of Public Works’ Forestry Division, but relying on that will not meet the goal. The plans calls for non-municipal groups and people. Councilors wondered what are examples of a non-municipal group. Non-profit groups such as Trees for Watertown are one example, but another would be a developer planting trees as part of its landscaping plan.

Some of the trees planted by the Forestry Division will be in resident’s front yards. Councilor Lisa Feltner questioned whether the town should be planting trees on private properties, such as people’s front yards.

“The public trees planted on private property is no longer public after the first year,” Feltner said.

She added that there was some concern expressed at the subcommittee meeting about public dollars being spent on trees being planted on private property.

Resident Michelle Cokonougher said she hoped to get a more clear picture of how the tree plantings will take place, but said the plan presented at the meeting did not have much detail. She noted that while the town hopes to find people who want a tree planted in front of their property, there is not outreach plan.

“I had hoped they would set the bar higher,” Cokonougher said.

The Council approved Tree Warden Chris Hayward’s Tree Management Plan (click here to view the plan, and minutes from the subcommitee meeting).

Also, the Council passed a motion to include a tree planting flyer in the packet sent to new residents along with the application for the residential property tax exemption.

Another part of the plan is to keep track of the tree canopy in Watertown. This includes both public street trees and those growing on private property.

Councilor Susan Falkoff said she was not sure how that would work.

“It confuses me. How do you keep track of whether I plant a tree in my backyard?” Falkoff said.

Town Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said the town uses computer software to monitor the amount of tree canopy coverage town and see how it changes from year to year, but it is more of a macro measurement.

“There is no way to track private trees,” Piccirilli said. “The software can measure the tree canopy.”

3 thoughts on “Plan Calls for Planting Hundreds of Trees in Watertown

  1. Developers should be required to plant trees as the work they do in town adds to the human and heat-producing footprint in most cases. In the scheme of things it’s a throwaway budget line on a project

  2. The following comment was submitted by Libby Shaw, President of Trees for Watertown:

    Thank you to Charlie Breitrose for this coverage of important strategic planning by our Town Council and Department of Public Works.

    Long range planning to protect and increase healthy tree canopy shading our streets is one of the most effective things we can do to protect our city from the stresses of climate change.

    Watertown is losing tree canopy much faster than it’s being replaced. We need to be planting thousands of trees now to replace in twenty years even the neighborhood tree canopy coverage Watertown has today.

    Planting new trees is critically important. It’s important for Watertown citizens to do everything we can to preserve the health of existing trees, too. Our big trees are doing yeoman work protecting us right now, providing exponentially more cooling canopy, and filtering and absorbing exponentially more stormwater, than small trees can.

    Watertown’s plan to plant hundreds of public shade trees is terrific, but unfortunately we can’t preserve and increase canopy in Watertown just by planting public shade trees. Street planting sites are limited, and life on the street is tough. As a consequence many street trees never reach healthy maturity, when they can do the most good.

    The largest portion of Watertown’s protective tree canopy is on private property. Our most healthy and long-lived neighborhood trees are in residential yards, not in the planting strip. But with the accelerated development of older residential and commercial properties with mature trees, critically important private tree canopy is vanishing, tree by tree. This is a tragic loss which current Watertown regulations put no brakes on.

    Watertown residents: please protect your mature trees, and remember to water your young trees, including the young public shade tree in front of your house. Is there space on your property where you could beneficially add a shade tree? Watertown’s Tree Warden Chris Hayward and our volunteer citizen organization, Trees for Watertown, are both happy to help with planting and maintenance advice.

    My fellow commenter D’s message regarding requiring shade trees in commercial developments is right on. Both summer heat and storm deluge intensity will increase with climate change. Future development inWatertown should include generous shade tree plantings, particularly along roadways — and should ensure those trees can have long healthy lifetimes. This means adequate soil volume must be planned and long-
    term maintenance must be factored in. Watertown’s regulations should ensure this.

    Treasure your neighborhood trees, and take care of them! The long-term rewards for you and your neighborhood are huge.

    And please remember to thank our hard-working Town Council and DPW for their long-range planning for Watertown’s urban forest.

    Libby Shaw

  3. I did not say that “the plan presented at the meeting did not have much detail”; I said that there was no plan presented as to how the planting of 250 trees per year would be accomplished. There is no “Tree Planting Program” that “calls for planting 2,500 trees over 10 years”; there was merely a goal stated that “the Town is to plant over 2,500 trees over the next 10 years, or at least 250 trees each year
    over each of the next 10 years”. And there is no “plan” that “looks at how to prioritize planting of trees in neighborhoods with the least canopy”. I was extremely disappointed with the subcommittee meeting and the documents that were submitted by Chris Hayward. I was at both the October 15th and July 10th Joint Committee on Public Works and Rules and Ordinances meetings to discuss Watertown’s Trees. The Forestry Supervisor/Tree Warden had about 8.5 months to come up with a plan of action and I found what was presented at the July 10th meeting very disappointing. A goal was stated that 250 trees would be planted each year for the next 10 years, but there was no plan presented as to how that would be accomplished other than to say “The forestry division will plant as many trees as is possible…”. There was also no focus area indicated. A document was presented detailing Watertown’s Tree Planting Request Program, which is something that has been in place for a long time. And it was expressed that there was hope that more residents would request tree plantings, but there was also no public outreach plan presented. What was presented should not be acceptable work and we should really be setting the bar a lot higher as to what is acceptable. I encourage you to review the meeting minutes and what was submitted by Watertown’s Forestry Supervisor/Tree Warden (–Rules-and-Ordinances-and-Public-Works—Tree-Protection) and to watch the video of the July 10th subcommittee meeting which can be found on by selecting on the Programs tab and then selecting the Committee on Rules and Ordinances program under which you will find the link to the July 10th video.

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