Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan

Picture of sunset over Larz Park with trees surrounding the lagoon

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