TEWKSBURY — Al Mancini speaks for the trees. The Tewksbury resident, a longtime advocate for tree preservation in town, has been known to quote Dr. Seuss’ environmental tome “The Lorax” in public meetings and has pushed the town to make trees a priority.
Now, Mancini and a group of residents are taking the next step to get Tewksbury declared a Tree City.
The Arbor Day Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to tree planting, runs the Tree City USA program as a way to encourage cities and towns to invest in natural infrastructure and realize the benefits of tree planting in communities. The organization was founded in 1976 and includes over 3,600 communities from every state in the country; it boasts over 941,000 trees planted and $1.4 billion invested in urban forestry in 2021.
More than half of Massachusetts residents live in a Tree City USA community — the program is administered locally by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Urban and Community Forestry Program. A community of any size may be recognized for its commitment to maintain and manage tree resources; neighboring towns that have already received the designation include Andover, Chelmsford, Lowell, and Wilmington.
Eligible communities can receive road signs and flags to be displayed around town, and Challenge Grants can help support further development of tree management activities. The program promotes countless benefits to increasing and maintaining trees in town, including lower temperatures, clean air, reduced noise pollution, climate change mitigation, energy cost savings, improved resident health, and increased property values.
The town currently fulfills three out of four requirements to be recognized as a Tree City: Tewksbury has a tree board or department, satisfied by the DPW forestry division and tree warden; a tree care ordinance under Chapter 8 of the Massachusetts General Laws; and spends a minimum of $2 per capita in the town’s annual forestry budget. The final requirement is an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
At the Dec. 20 meeting of the Tewksbury Select Board, Mancini, resident Susan Young, and open space and recreation plan committee chair Tom Branchaud requested that the board take the step of issuing an observance proclamation.
Young, treasurer of the Tewksbury Garden Club, noted that the club has observed Arbor Day for about 40 years, annually distributing balsam fir saplings to third grade students in Tewksbury Public Schools and providing accompanying environmental education.
Mancini emphasized the importance of trees in the community and urged the board to support the proposal.
“It would be really cool for the town to celebrate trees,” he said. “We need to recognize Arbor Day with a celebration.”
The Select Board voted to issue a proclamation observing Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.