Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan

April, 2021

Work is underway to develop a complete draft of the Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan. The Consultant Team is reviewing the final results of the Canopy Assessment and is conducting a risk analysis to determine the most efficient use of Town funds as well as identify realistic priorities for minimizing climate change-associated risk.

A virtual Draft Report Presentation will take place on Monday, May 17th from 6 PM-8 PM – all are encouraged to attend! Please pre-register for this meeting via the following link: https://brooklinema.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_qWzgUy9KQzudZ4t1xxMvCQ. The upcoming public meeting will be an opportunity to review some key takeaways from the Master Plan prior to its finalization, including the analysis of tree canopy coverage across Brookline and climate change risk and intervention analysis, and provide any additional feedback or suggestions you may have. Please contact Katie Weatherseed, Project Manager, at kweatherseed@brooklinema.gov with any questions or comments.

February, 2021

A great deal of progress has been made over the past two months on the development of the Master Plan. Although there was a significant delay in receiving the LiDAR data, the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory team has been flexible and accommodating. UVM began analyzing the LiDAR data in late January and have developed some preliminary findings which will be shared at the upcoming Public Forum on March 15th. In regards to the Stem-by-Stem inventory, the additional trees overhanging the public way flagged for inventory have been assessed and the entire dataset has undergone a quality control check.  

The Consultant Team has submitted a 50% draft of the Master Plan for review by staff, including the development of preliminary recommendations. The Committee and project team will meet in March to discuss these recommendations, and they will then be presented to the public during the March 15th public forum.

Despite the unanticipated shifts in the project’s timeline, the team has been adaptable and we feel confident that we can still meet our June deadline for the final Master Plan. That being said, the draft report presentation originally scheduled for April 12th will be postponed to May 17th to allow for the LiDAR results to be incorporated into the Master Plan. 

December, 2020

Our third virtual public forum was held on December 14th. Our Project Team covered a great deal of material, including an analysis of the community survey results; a discussion of best management practices, regulations and policy; a review of Brookline forestry operations, budget and staff; and regional and national responses to climate change. As always, the meeting materials can be found on the right-hand side of this webpage, and a video recording is linked to the bottom of this page.

In regards to recent progress, a 25% draft of the plan has been reviewed by staff and returned to the lead consultant, KZLA, with comments. The processed 2020 LiDAR data was delivered several weeks ago, but a minor error was discovered by the Town’s IT Department. The data is currently being revised and will then be sent to the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory for a thorough review and analysis. The Project Team has also identified some additional areas with public trees overhanging the public way which should be included in the stem-by-stem inventory. This work is being scheduled for early 2021. Aside from these slight changes in timeline, the project is looking right on track! We continue to receive a great deal of interest and input from residents and local environmental advocacy groups, and are looking forward to our next public forum on March 15, 2021. This upcoming public forum will include a review of additional data, a risk analysis and draft recommendations.

Image of large green truck, with a chip box and a white airlift. Crew in yellow vests stand nearby

October, 2020

Our second virtual public forum was held on September 14th and was a great success - approximately 100 members from the public attended! We discussed what the project team has heard from the public to date, the results of the stem-by-stem inventory, trends in urban forest planning, and next steps. A recording of the meeting can be found at the bottom of this webpage.

In regards to current work, LiDAR flyover data is being analyzed, which should further inform our understanding of Brookline’s urban forest. A draft outline of the Master Plan has also been drafted and can be found in the “Project Files” resource section of this webpage. We are continuing to work on engaging the public using a variety of strategies and tools, particularly focusing on the vulnerable populations that will be most affected by the changing climate and its subsequent impacts. Sections of text and preliminary goals and recommendations are beginning to be drafted, and will be discussed in our next public forum (#3) scheduled for Monday, December 14th, 2020. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to take our Urban Forest Climate Resiliency Master Plan survey – it should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. You can access the survey via the following the link https://www.opentownhall.com/9325, or by simply answering the questions in the embedded webpage above. Thank you in advance for taking the time to share your thoughts on the urban forest with us! 

Image of tree with orange leaves with sunlight shining through its branches

August, 2020

A great deal of work has been completed since June, 2020. Our Project Team has completed the stem-by-stem inventory and representative soil sampling/analysis of Brookline’s urban forest. This data is now being analyzed and assessed by our consultant team. We are also preparing for our next virtual public meeting, which will be taking place at 6 PM on Monday, September 14th, 2020 via Zoom - please register in advance via the following link: https://brooklinema.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_04GTF4A1Qiu7tC6N_lD5tw. We will be discussing the results of our urban forest inventory and next steps. Please view the upcoming agenda here.

In an effort to reach as many residents as possible, we have created a survey to allow the project team to hear directly from you. These results will help us determine community priorities and goals regarding the urban forest. We would greatly appreciate you taking the time to participate – it should take no longer than 5 minutes. You can access the survey via the following the link https://www.opentownhall.com/9325, or by simply answering the questions in the embedded webpage above. Let us know what you love about our urban forest, how it can improve, and how we can ensure its resilience for generations to come.  The survey will be open until October 31st

Recordings of all Public Forums can be found at the bottom of this project webpage.

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 22, 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.