City Hall launches 'Greening of Pawtucket' program

City Hall launches 'Greening of Pawtucket' program

City residents will have four main choices when they apply for free trees. Options are, from left, the London Plane Tree, the Bowhall Red Maple, the Littleleaf Linden and the Chinese Elm.
Want a free tree? Applications are online

PAWTUCKET - Being "green" in Pawtucket is about to become easier - as long as one has the winning proposal for making it happen.

City officials have announced a new "Greening of Pawtucket" program they say will bring trees, free of charge, to sidewalks outside the homes of city residents, replacing a former 50-50 shared-cost program they say had mixed results.

If local residents have never gotten out to meet their neighbors, this just might be the time, say Pawtucket leaders, who are emphasizing that proposals made by a group or neighborhood have a much better chance of being funded.

"We think residents getting together will have the greatest impact on improving quality of life in the neighborhoods," said Public Works Director Lance Hill.

Dylan Zelazo, spokesman for Mayor Donald Grebien, said that officials aren't necessarily looking for specific criteria on tree applications other than a cohesive neighborhood plan.

"If residents say, 'we want our whole street done,' that would probably get priority," he said, adding that officials are looking for a "consistent look on a street."

Officials say a fuller tree cover can only be good for a city that has lost many trees over the past few years to heavy snowstorms and powerful tropical storms.

"Trees are not only good for the environment, they also brighten the city streetscape in so many ways," said Grebien. "We're hoping that by broadening the program we will encourage more participation."

Applicants will have a choice of four trees:

* The Chinese Elm, a wider variety that prefers full sunlight and has a high tolerance for drought.

* The Bowhall Red Maple, a narrow tree that doesn't mind flooding and has a great fall color.

* The Littleleaf Linden, a smaller pyramid-shaped tree that also enjoys full sun.

* And the London Plane Tree, a taller, more elegant tree that is highly tolerant of air pollution, among other strengths.

For trees that would be planted under power lines, the two choices are:

* Chanticleer Pear, a tree that was selected as the 2005 urban tree of the year, in part for its great durability.

* And Japanese Zelkova, a versatile tree that thrives in many different environments.

All street trees measure about two inches in diameter, or slightly wider, and have roots that shoot downward to avoid sidewalk upheaval. They must be spaced a minimum 50 feet apart.

The city will provide mulch upon installation by a licensed arborist contractor, with long-term maintenance the responsibility of the property owner.

The free tree program, funded under the city's federal block grant program, is being administered by the Pawtucket Works Department. The annual amount allotted for the program "is something of a moving target," according to Zelazo, but is "roughly $50,000."

Applications for free trees will be accepted until Dec. 1 for the first round of planting in the spring of 2014 subject to funding availability. Those not accepted for the initial round will remain on a priority list for future planting.

Applications are available at the Department of Public Works Center, 250 Armistice Blvd., or can be printed from the city website at www.pawtucketri.com/departments/engineering. Because the applications require a signature, they cannot be completed online. Applicants can also call the Public Works Department at 401-728-0500, ext. 339.

Hill said the city also maintains its traditional 50-50 funding program for sidewalk construction for both homes and businesses, with applications on the city website or at the DPW office.