Back of Sidewalk Program

Tree Planting Committee
Back of Sidewalk Tree Planting Program

Background and Purpose

Since the 1930s, the Town of Brookline has partnered with citizens to plant shade trees on private property in close proximity to the sidewalk. Today, the Back of Sidewalk Tree Planting Program provides the Town and residents an opportunity to expand the diversity of tree species in our public realm by planting trees in situations with optimal growing conditions and the benefit from stewardship by homeowners. Over 11,000 street trees provide beauty and environmental benefits town-wide. Our streetscapes are enhanced by additional street trees planted back of sidewalk.

Participants in the Back of Sidewalk Program work with the Tree Warden, Forestry crew and the Tree Planting Committee, to select, plant and maintain street trees planted within 20 feet of the public right of way on private property. Trees in the program must be completely visible from the public sidewalk. To participate in the program, the Tree Planting and Maintenance Agreement (PDF) needs to be completed and returned to: Tom Brady, Tree Warden, Department of Public Works, Town Hall, 333 Washington St., Brookline, MA 02445

Once you have submitted the agreement, the Tree Warden and members of the Tree Planting Committee will meet with you to help you select a tree from the Town’s existing tree inventory that will be well suited to the environmental conditions of your property. Each year, the Town has several varieties of shade trees available for planting through the Back of Sidewalk Program. Each year, the planting schedule is dependent on seasonal conditions, crew schedule, and plant availability.

In addition to the Tree Planting and Maintenance Agreement, please complete a small sketch diagram of your property. It should include the following:

  • House footprint (layout position of your house in relation to the street and sidewalk from above)
  • Location of above ground and below ground power lines and gas or water lines (as known)
  • Existing trees, shrubs, garden beds, fences or walls
  • Existing driveway and walkways
  • Existing street trees or neighboring trees including approximate size and height
  • Proposed location of Back of Sidewalk tree

Drawing may be drawn by hand or computer generated – it only needs to be a sketch but please be as accurate as possible. The Tree Planting Committee is happy to answer any questions. Please e-mail:

Nadine Gerdts, Chair, Tree Planting Committee email Nadine Gerdts


The Forestry element of the Parks and Open Space Division preserves and maintains all shade trees along public ways, parks, school grounds, cemeteries, and all other public grounds. The total number of trees under our jurisdiction is more than 50,000.

The Forestry element provides for the safety of all public ways and grounds through the removal of dead and dangerous limbs and trees and is responsible for replacing trees in areas where they have been removed as appropriate. Street tree removals in the public right-of-way are managed by the town Tree Warden and assisted by the Tree Planting Committee.

Tree Planting Committee

The mission of the Tree Planting Committee is to advise the Tree Warden on the species and placement of street trees and to hold public hearings for street tree removal requests. The three member Tree Planting Committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen, was established in 1886, and is the longest standing Tree Planting Committee in the nation.

Urban Forestry

Urban forestry is the study of applying the practices and principals of arboriculture in urban and suburban settings. The urban forest in Brookline has been a significant component of Brookline's character for many generations. Written records reflect the community's sentiment about the civic and environmental value of this resource as long ago as the mid 1800s when many of the benefits of trees were quantified, including their impacts on temperatures, storm water runoff, property values, air quality and contribution to an improved sense of safety and security in a community.

Brookline was the site of one of the earliest street tree inventories in the country in the late 1800s and has an active urban forestry program in the community with a strong citizen advocacy group. The early recognition of the significance of the urban forest led to efforts to maintain public trees, which continue to benefit Brookline today. The National Arbor Day Foundation contains a list of the benefits of trees.