Watertown Residents Can Request a Tree be Planted in Front of Their Homes

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The following announcement was provided by Trees for Watertown:

Are you trying to forget our brutal summer that featured heat wave after heat wave? Now it’s official: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that June through August 2020 was the hottest summer on record for Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As hot as it was, on walks around the neighborhood (what else was to be done during a global pandemic?), I felt instant relief as I passed beneath the green canopies of street trees.

The immediate cool I felt was not only due to the leafy parasol above sheltering me from direct sunshine, it was also thanks to the lack of heat radiating off asphalt and sidewalks, which store up solar gain and turn our streets into ovens. Evaporation from trees helps cool the air, too.

The difference between shaded vegetation and paved surfaces can be as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Imagine if the entire length of a street had this canopy shading us and our homes!

Such oases are too few in Watertown and clustered only in some parts of town. Truth is, every neighborhood deserves this green infrastructure.

The good news is that we, residents of Watertown, can have more trees! With support from the nonprofit organization Trees for Watertown, the Town of Watertown is launching a new drive to collect requests for more street trees.

Whether you’re a renter or an owner, you can request a free public shade tree by filling out the online tree request form at http://bit.ly/treewatertown. Even if it may look as though there isn’t a spot for a tree in front of your home, at your request the Town can remove asphalt that now covers what used to be a planting strip decades ago, or cut the sidewalk to create a tree pit. Wires overhead? It may still be possible to plant a small or medium-sized tree. Even if your planting strip already hosts a Town tree, there may be room for another.

Watertown’s new tree warden Greg Mosman started working at the end of September. Area landscapers respectfully refer to Mosman as the Bill Belichick of tree wardens, because he comes with experience and skills gained from his successful career as the City of Boston’s tree warden. He will gladly work with you to determine whether you have an appropriate location near your home for a new public shade tree.

The Town provides and plants the trees. It asks for your help in maintaining your new street tree’s well-being by helping to water it in its first few years, helping protect its roots from being parked on, and notifying the Town if a branch needs pruning.

With a little help from you, your new street tree will get a great start. New trees planted today will create a more pleasant, resilient Watertown for us right now and for our future generations.

Real estate agents know that healthy street trees add value and curb appeal to our homes. Their seasonal beauty also soothes and refreshes our spirits.

By simply occupying the marginal spaces of tree pits and planting strips, street trees do so much more for us as well. They filter toxins in stormwater runoff and in the air, reduce flooding, generate oxygen, sequester carbon, lower our summer cooling bills, absorb noise, and even calm traffic!

Larger, mature trees provide the most benefits, so let’s start now, planting new trees and growing our urban forest so it can protect us from even hotter summers ahead.

By acting locally, as locally as the planting strip in front of your home, you can support the entire planet. We can do this, one tree at a time. Join this Watertown effort to plant more street trees.

8 thoughts on “Watertown Residents Can Request a Tree be Planted in Front of Their Homes

    • Insert the word “that” after “request” to complete the sentence in formal English. Headliners often take small liberties with the language, in the interest of saving space
      or sounding more conversational.

  1. Wonderful news! When I walk my dog I see SO many spots a tree could be planted. I’m always heartbroken when one of Watertown’s beautiful old shade trees come down, which is pretty frequent, especially as the weather gets more severe, especially in terms of wind. Just this past week the windstorm took a tree that was about 150 years old from Main St. in the West End. We have to plant more as soon as possible!

  2. I’m very excited about this effort and hoping it gains even more momentum!! An investment in Big Shade trees is an investment in Watertown’s future, for sure. There are so many paved-over, tree-less spots on the West Side of Watertown. I’m looking forward to seeing more trees sprout up!! I hope that everyone can do their part to look out for and water these newcomers once they are planted! [I also think that we need to invest in Trees instead of parking spots/lots—I’ve been hoping that Watertown might learn from surrounding communities continue on-street parking all year round (and offer alternating, one-side street during snow emergencies, that’s how they do it in Somerville, which is densely populated). I actually think that this change would save trees, as it would people from paving over their planting strips in desperation. Then instead of having rows of pavement, we could have rows of beautiful trees! Just sayin’

  3. Residents cannot pave over town property. If they did, they would have a serious problem to remedy. Leaving cars cluttering the sides of the streets 24/7- 365 is a serious safety issue especially during the long winter months. (Watertown does not remove curbside snowbanks!) Watch closely the next time you see a fire engine or ambulance stopped at an intersection at 2 AM during an emergency because they can’t fit down a narrow street with cars parked everywhere except in their own driveways. What good is a treelined street blocked from view by an overcrowding of cars along both sides of every street in town? Watertown has too many cars on its streets! Most homes in town were built many years ago on very small lots in a time when each household owned maybe a single car. Now there are at least two or more per household. You are right, Watertown should learn from its surrounding communities such as Belmont that enforce NO on street overnight parking on their streets year round. Watertown has a 1:00-5:00 AM no on street parking law on the books. Unfortunately, it is only enforced during the winter. Watertown residents would have a safer and better quality of life it was enforced as written year round.

  4. Information especially for renters:

    Since the planting strip along neighborhood streets is public property, renters as well as homeowners are welcome to request a public shade tree for the planting strip in front of their home.

    Watertown’s new Tree Warden Greg Mosman will stop by sometime before the Spring tree planting season, to determine whether the requested site is appropriate to grow a street tree to healthy maturity. If he approves the site, you’ll have a list of several tree species to select from.

    Property owners have the additional option to request a public shade tree for their yard. Trees planted on this more protected side of the sidewalk don’t provide as much cooling shade on the street, but they do have a significantly better chance for a long healthy lifetime.

    Only property owners have this option, but interested renters can ask their landlords to request a tree for their yard, which the renter will care for.

    Speaking of care, the most impactful thing you can do to care for a young tree is make sure it’s getting enough water during its first 2 or 3 growing seasons. To check, poke a 6″ trowel into the ground near the tree. If the soil at the bottom of the hole is dry, the tree definitely needs water.

    Despite the rain we’ve been having, Watertown is still in severe long-term drought. Please keep the deep root zone of your young Town tree moist. It will thank you in the long run!

    • This is a great idea. Renters should get involved. 100% involved. They need to start paying taxes. We need to have a renters tax just like landlords have a real estate tax. Renters get all the benefits and none the headaches. While we’re at it, let’s throw in permit parking for the street too just like Cambridge.
      You want to make all these changes and decisions for the town, then pay up.

      • Eric, renters do pay taxes. Their landlords pay them and the taxes and then pass the cost along. A renters tax would essentially have them paying double. That’s not fair.

        Why do you think we need permit parking? We already have an overnight parking ban half the year. Have you had trouble parking on the street? That is why Cambridge has permit parking–a shortage of parking spaces for residents.

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