Boston is one of the smartest cities in the US. It was, in fact, one of the first cities in the country to launch new and experimental smart initiatives in the first half of 2010.
Then Mayor Thomas M. Menino led the initiative as he dreamt of a city that introduced new ideas and innovations.
We have seen some great smart initiatives in the last few years in the form of mobile apps and smart streets. Continuing the tradition, the city is ready to introduce urban forests.
What is an Urban Forest?
Wikipedia defines an urban forest as “a forest or a collection of trees that grow within a city, town or a suburb. In a wider sense, it may include any kind of woody plant vegetation growing in and around human settlements.”
Urban forests don’t always contain amenities such as paved paths and public bathrooms. They can be publicly or privately owned.
Why Do We Need Urban Forests?
Climate change is a real concern. It was a major point in Joe Biden’s campaign, which saw him come out victorious. Other leaders around the world are also becoming concerned about the impact of deforestation.
Urban forests offer the same benefits as traditional forests. Cities around the world are building urban forests. Paris was recently in the news for plans to build Europe’s largest urban forest.
The French government wants to turn Paris green and has plans to introduce green belts in the city.
Here are some of the reasons why so many countries are showing interest in urban forests:
- · Good for Health
This might come as a surprise to some but urban forests are good for health as they play an important role in reducing stress and offering a sense of community.
In addition to promoting mental well-being, urban forests also help reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Moreover, they’ve been proven to reduce the incidence of asthma, diabetes, and obesity.
Some reports suggest that urban forests can reduce violence and crime rates while also promoting healing. It’s believed that hospital rooms that offer green views help people heal faster.
- · Add to the Beauty
Urban forests attract tourism as they make cities appear more beautiful. Moreover, they can be used to hide unattractive features such as parking lots, freeways, and walls.
- · Excellent for the Environment
We know that plants produce oxygen, hence it doesn’t come as a surprise that urban forests reduce air pollution while also having an effect on urban heat.
Heatwaves have become common around the world. Urban cities tend to be 8-12 degrees hotter than rural towns. Urban forests play an important role in bringing the temperature down while also providing shade to residents.
According to this study, urban forests in the US store more than 600m tons of carbon. Plus, urban forests tend to have better carbon sequestration rates than a traditional forest, which makes them highly effective.
- · Help Save Money
Urban forests help communities save money in two ways:
- By providing food in the form of fruits and vegetables
- By reducing energy consumption including cooling and heating costs
It is believed that buildings close to urban trees can save up to 30 percent in cooling costs and up to 50 percent in heating costs. Many cities in the US already appearing to be reaping these benefits of urban forests.
So, What’s Boston Doing?
Deforestation is a common problem and cities appear to be losing around 36 million trees per year.
Boston understands the need to grow trees. It appears to be prioritizing communities that appear to have been most affected due to climate change.
According to Mayor Marty Walsh, the plan is specifically designed to “ensure every neighborhood has the resources they deserve and need.”
This comes at a time when the city is already struggling to keep water levels under control. Municipal buildings in Boston require carbon neutral designs. Moreover, the authorities are working to protect the city’s waterfront from rising sea levels.
The city intends to keep the planning process highly collaborative and transparent.
“As we plan for our city’s future, we’re working to ensure Boston is an equitable, safe city for all residents,” said Mayor Walsh in the project announcement.
“We know how critical trees are as we fight climate change and improve the quality of life for all residents. This urban forest plan is the first of its kind in Boston and is an opportunity to ensure every neighborhood has the resources they deserve and need. Boston is committed to strengthening our environmental work, and creating a brighter, greener future for all.”
What’s Really Happening?
The city is looking for a partner to develop the city’s canopy goals.
According to government reps, there is a high need for a continued commitment to the goal.
“Some famous urbanists said, you can tell the wealth of a street by how many trees are on the street, so I am a huge believer in adding to that tree canopy and the health effects that come with it,” said Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley during an online event hosted by Climate Mayors.
The plan, which has been budgeted for $500,000, is designed to supplement the Climate Ready Boston plan introduced in 2016.
The city is looking for someone with the ability to identify the current situation and reverse the damage. The job includes mapping areas where trees fall more often and develop a plan to reverse the situation.
However, we must mention, it will not be the job of the partner alone to maintain the city’s trees. The Parks and Recreation Department will handle much of the responsibility.
The main job of the partner will be to identify neighborhoods that are underserved and to negotiate and discuss with stakeholders to create a plan that helps solve the problem.
Other cities in North America appear to be following Boston’s footsteps. Montreal is currently busy studying the landscape, while Chicago is creating a street tree inventory.