Saturday, May 18, 2024

State Sen. Will Brownsberger speaks Tuesday in Danehy Park. (Photo: Charles Teague)

More than 60 people gathered in Danehy Park on Tuesday to learn how to help stop tree loss in Cambridge and hear longtime environmental supporter state Sen. Will Brownsberger give an update on current climate change mitigation efforts. 

City councillors Paul Toner and Dennis Carlone are among those hearing Brownsberger lay out the foundational concept of the transition to an all-electric society. Massive global initiatives, such as conversion to electric cars, are well underway, though it can be difficult for an individual to convert their existing home to be all-electric, he said. Brownsberger closed by emphasizing the importance of trees in protecting us from inevitable future heat waves.

Chuck Hinds, longtime president of the East Cambridge Planning Team, recited a litany of loss of exceptional trees in East Cambridge that cannot be replaced in our lifetimes – exceptional trees being defined as being greater than 30 inches in diameter, some being as much as 150 years old and representing the largest 3 percent of trees in the city. Hinds ended on a more promising note, describing how ECPT saved dozens of mature trees planned to be cut down by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by working with the school to redesign its projects.

Next Mike Nakagawa, an officer of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, recounted the loss of 93 trees at Tobin School reconstruction; and 95 during just the first phase of construction at the Jefferson Park low-income housing project, with another 150 planned to be cut down in the second phase. All are near a planned city path near Danehy Park where plans call for even more trees to be cut down. Nakagawa offered alternative designs to increase space for preserving and planting trees in upcoming city projects, but said our city’s Community Development Department dismissed his suggestions – a contrast with Hinds’ experience working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Nakagawa encouraged the group to contact CDD in support of “tree-friendly” changes.

As president of ACN, I pointed out large mature trees in Danehy Park that probably died due to this year’s drought and the city’s belated repair of a failed irrigation system. Even 20 years will not be long enough to replace them. But if enough residents work together, they can get city management to make simple and obvious changes: first, prioritizing protecting our parks and the trees within; second, getting the new city manager to have all staff follow the city’s own Urban Forest Master Plan, developed over years and at great expense. The plan details what the city, its institutions, its businesses and its residents need to do to preserve and grow a tree canopy that protects all of us.

This event was co-sponsored by six community groups in addition to the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods: the Porter Square Neighbors Association, Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, Alewife Neighbors, East Cambridge Planning Team, Cambridge Residents Alliance and the Alewife Study Group.

For information, send email to [email protected].

Charles Teague, president of the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, has been advocating for preserving the tree canopy and Linear Park since 2016.