Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan

Picture of sunset over Larz Park with trees surrounding the lagoon

June 2020

We are pleased to report that work on the Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan is progressing on schedule and successfully, despite the various obstacles that Covid-19 has presented. We have made significant progress on all three facets of our multi-part inventory:

  • LiDAR Inventory: A LiDAR flyover was conducted in April and the data is currently being processed so that it may be analyzed by the University of Vermont.
  • Stem-By-Stem Inventory: As of June 30th, over 10,500 street trees have been assessed and their condition, size and species identified.
  • Soil Testing: Soil samples were collected at 16 sites across Town for analysis relating to fertility indicators and heavy metal indicators. Eight of these sites were tested for additional indicators, including bulk density soil compaction, infiltration, slake, soil biology, and soil chemistry. Kyle Zick (lead project consultant) in collaboration with Chuck Sherzi (of Sherzi & Company) are currently reviewing the results of these soil tests and drafting a report.

3D image of Beacon Street (South of Washington Square). Trees are depicted along the street in varyi

View along Beacon Street south of Washington Square showing tree conditions

On June 10, 2020, the Parks and Open Space Division held a virtual Kick-off Public Forum in which the Project Team formally introduced themselves, gave an overview of the project (including timeline, deliverables and goals) and shared climate change data and their findings to date. The powerpoint presentation shared at this meeting, and a video recording of the meeting itself, can be found in the sidebar of this webpage under “Project Files”.

Future public meeting dates are listed below (please note that these dates are subject to change):

Public Meeting 2: Review Data/Findings to DateSeptember 14, 2020
Public Meeting 3: Review Additional Data/Risk Analysis/Preliminary RecommendationsDecember 14, 2020
Public Meeting 4: Assessment of Existing Operations/Best Management Practices and RecommendationsMarch 15, 2021
Public Meeting 5: Draft Report PresentationApril 12, 2021
Public Meeting 6: Final Report Presentation to Select BoardJune 18, 2021

If you would like to be included in the ListServ for future communications regarding this project, please contact Katie Weatherseed at kweatherseed@brooklinema.gov.

April 2020

The Parks and Open Space Division is thrilled to start work on an Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan (UFCRMP) for the Town of Brookline. The need for an Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan arose out of the 2017 Climate Vulnerability Assessment planning process. This Plan identified the significance of the urban canopy as a nature-based solution to climate change, and recommended several priority actions and strategies aimed at sustaining and strengthening the urban forest. Brookline’s first biannual Sustainability and Climate Action Summit also identified the Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan as a necessary planning tool and marked it as a priority.

In February 2020, the Division of Parks and Open Space was awarded a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program (MVP) Action Grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to hire a consultant team to develop the Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan.  In March 2020, the Parks and Open Space Division had a successful bidding process and executed a contract with Kyle Zick Landscape Architecture, Inc (KZLA). The contract will be executed over a one-and-a-half year period, with an anticipated completion date of June 2021.

This plan will position the Town to proactively prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change on the Town’s public and private trees. The UFCRMP will include an assessment of the health and condition of the existing urban forest (including genus diversity, tree condition ratings, and tree size [dbh] analysis), a review of the Town’s forestry maintenance and management practices and emergency procedures, and the development of goals and actionable recommendations to enhance the resiliency of Brookline’s urban tree canopy. The plan will also be utilized as a tool to identify how Brookline can best serve the community, particularly Environmental Justice neighborhoods and vulnerable populations most susceptible to climate change impacts, such as the urban heat island effect.

The goals of the project are defined as follows:

  • Position the Town to proactively and equitably prepare for and protect against the impacts of climate change on public and private trees.
  • Mitigate the impacts of climate change by strengthening the ecological functions and values provided by a healthy, balanced and sustainable tree canopy.
  • Identify areas/communities that are under-served in terms of tree planting and/or are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
  • Provide the Town with a thorough and accurate inventory of public and private trees (via LiDAR and/or a stem-by-stem analysis) which will allow for the development of metrics and maps and the comprehensive evaluation of needs across Brookline. This inventory shall be used as a comparative baseline to monitor Brookline’s urban canopy for years to come.
  • Conduct outreach and engage the community throughout the process. Educate the public on topics including (but not limited to) climate change, climate equity, urban heat island effect, and the functions and values of the urban canopy as it relates to climate.
  • Conduct a risk analysis to examine the probability and the consequences of harm resulting from climate change, and determine the most efficient use of Town funds and identify realistic priorities for minimizing risk.
  • Develop an Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan outlining current and historic conditions of the urban canopy, a review of climate projections, and specific short- and long-term goals and objectives.
  • Produce a comprehensive action plan, informed by up-to-date climate projections and climate research, which will provide realistic, practical recommendations for the Town. These recommendations shall address:
  • How to maintain and extend the urban canopy, so as to increase and improve the urban forest’s resiliency to climate change;
  • How to make effective and efficient use of the Parks and Open Space Division budget, staff, and time, in both short- and long-term management and planning of the urban canopy;
  • How to strategically adjust existing management practices and emergency response procedures based on best management practices in relation to projected climate impacts;
  • How to improve canopy density in areas/communities that are under-served and/or are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change;
  • Best practices for community outreach and engagement to support expansion and maintenance of the urban forest.

As you may imagine, Covid-19 has impacted certain facets of the project scope and the originally proposed schedule. Town staff and KZLA are currently working on defining what components of the scope are still feasible to complete during this fiscal year while practicing social distancing measures and general safety precautions. Public engagement and outreach are of critical importance to the success of this project. However, per the Governor’s instructions regarding Covid-19, the Town has made the difficult decision that “all non-essential public meetings and events in town or school facilities shall be prohibited effective at 8 PM Wednesday, March 11 through April 30, 2020”. Our kick-off public meeting, originally scheduled for April 27th, will be postponed until further notice.

Project Files