Betsy’s Corner: Tree Talk with our New Tree Warden

I have always been a tree hugger. I grew up under the shade of a beautiful old Copper Beech Tree in New York that stood outside my bedroom window. The leaves changed colors as the seasons progressed from green to gold to a deep purple. When we first moved here I was struck with how many tall majestic oak trees there were surrounding our new home. Then I found out that our neighborhood was called Forest Acres – it made sense. The trees were here before the houses were built. The only problem with living within an oak forest is the huge number of acorns we have and the squirrels that accompany these acorns. We needed to take a couple trees down due to damage, and it made me sad.

We are lucky here in Longmeadow because we have a wonderful lush tree canopy over our heads. Each of the 56 cities and 295 towns in Massachusetts is required to appoint or elect a Tree Warden to protect public shade trees. The position of Tree Warden was “invented” by legislation here in Massachusetts in 1896. Under Massachusetts General Law, town bylaws, and by tradition, the Tree Warden is responsible for the preservation of public shade trees, park trees and trees on non-park town land. (I inserted the reference to tradition because technically, park trees are under the control of the Park Commissioners, but they currently delegate the control to the Tree Warden). The public shade trees are on either side of the of town streets on the town right-of-way or “tree belt.” We are ahead of the curve as a state in protecting and caring for trees, and our town has a great track record.

Our new Tree Warden in town is Dave Marinelli. This past fall, he was appointed to the position by our Town Manager. Dave works closely with the DPW to maintain and improve our tree assets. Longmeadow achieved its 16th Tree City USA recognition in 2018 by meeting the program’s four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Each and every fourth grader in public school receives a tree sapling to plant and tend, courtesy of Longmeadow Gardeners. This year there will be a tree planting ceremony at Center School on April 26 and this honor is rotated between each of our elementary schools. Longmeadow’s children learn to appreciate our trees at an early age.

Ours is a historic state and this region was thickly forested along the shores of the Connecticut River. When I met with the new tree warden we chatted about all the things that homeowners need to know about trees in and around their yards. How many trees are town trees in our community? There are about 14,000 public shade trees lining Longmeadow’s 93 miles of streets, and there are at least another 100,000 trees on park, school and conservation land in town. As street trees age out, it is important to replace them with young healthy specimens of diverse species, for the future of our town. You will have an opportunity to vote to add tree belt trees along Laurel Street as part of a CPA grant at the Spring Town Meeting.

You may need to consult the Tree Warden if you have questions or concerns about trees in and around your property or on public land. If a resident would like to plant a tree in front of their house, on the town right of way, they will find a list of recommended and suitable street trees in the Longmeadow Tree Manual Appendix A here:

Permission to plant a tree and request for a town planted tree, forms are found here:

All work done to tree belt trees, such a pruning, planting or root excavation must be approved in writing by the Tree Warden. Dave can be reached at via email, or you can leave a message for him at the DPW at 413-567-3400.

In the meantime, be aware of and enjoy your outdoor surroundings. If you see a tree on public property that you feel requires attention, call the DPW. The DPW will take your information and enter it into its tracking system. This will then be sent to the Tree Warden who will evaluate the tree and refer it to our workers or contracted tree care company, if appropriate. Issues are addressed as funds allow, and priority is given to potentially hazardous situations. If you see a potentially dangerous limb or diseased tree on private property kindly contact your neighbor. The following signs should prompt you to consult an arborist: missing bark on major branches, trunk and branch decay or splitting, mushroom growth and incomplete leafing out in springtime. Trees may maintain a healthy-looking canopy in spite of central decay, because only the outer layers of the trunk are alive and conducting sap. Be conscientious and diligent in caring for your own trees.

I recommend “Shinrin Yoku,” a Japanese term that translates into the term “Forest Bathing.” Take a slow meditative walk in the woods or in the meadows near the Connecticut River. Smell the fresh air, breath in and relax. In Japan, doctors are now prescribing a walk in nature as a way to refresh and relax. Spending time outdoors is good for you and your soul. Enjoy the beautiful trees in Longmeadow. Go for a walk with a friend and leave your cellphone at home. Walking near trees is good for your health and happiness.

Hug a tree!

– Article submitted by Betsy Huber Port.