SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The City of Springfield is still healing from the June 1, 2011 tornado.
“The fabric of the City ripped apart by the destruction of our urban tree canopy,” said David Bionarz of ReGreen Springfield. Five years have passed and still devastation from the June 1st tornado is all too visible in Springfield.
“You remember how these neighborhoods were and then when you drive through now and still see a lot of the devastation of what was brought from the tornado, it’s why we’re volunteering today,” said David Barkman, General Manager of the Verizon Wireless in West Springfield.
In Springfield’s Old Hill neighborhood, new homes have replaced piles of rubble, but yards are bare.
No trees. That’s why volunteers through Regreen Springfield planted more than a dozen large and small trees in Harriet Tubman Park overlooking the Mill River.
The trees serve a much larger purpose than just beautifying the City. They’ve been proven to cool down urban environments especially in the summer time, which could impact electric costs. And they’ve also been proven to improve air quality which could reduce the rates of asthma.
“Trees are cleaning the air. They’re removing particulate matter. Small little particles. Each tree that’s about 6 inches in size can remove up to a ton of dust a year,” said Bionarz. He added that the tree canopy keeps the City cool. In fact, he said, since the tornado, the City has heated up three degrees due to a lack of trees. With cooler air in the summer, people don’t have to spend as much on energy costs. If trees are strategically planted, they can protect cold winter winds from entering drafty homes. That can save them on heating bills.
These trees are some of the 75 awarded to the City through a grant from CSX Railroad, which donated a tree for every mile of train track it owns, through a partnership with the National Arbor day Foundation.
All trees must be planted along waterways, as part of the grant. All trees in Springfield will be planted in areas hit hardest by the tornado.
“In the tornado zone, we’ve probably put in upwards of 3,000 trees and spent 1.2 million,” said Springfield City Forester Edward Casey.
Residents are appreciative. In just the time we were there, a neighbor stopped to admire the newly planted trees.