Street Tree Planting, Pruning & Maintenance
Request a Street Tree
If you would like a new public shade tree in front of your house or a replacement tree, the Town will plant one at no cost to you, as long as the Division can determine a tree is sustainable in that location. In the case of a replacement tree, there may be a specific reason why the previous tree did not survive.
If you would like to request a street tree, please contact the Parks and Open Space Division at 617-879-5650, or click here to request online using BrookONLine. You can also use a SmartPhone to download the BrookONLine app to make requests from anywhere in town using a mobile phone. The Tree Planting Committee will review your request and the site conditions, and determine the species that is appropriate for your location.
Challenges of Street Tree Planting and Maintenance
In urban areas, opportunities to plant new street trees are often limited to small cutouts in the sidewalks called 'tree pits'. Newly planted street trees are subject to a number of stressors, including a restricted area for root growth that restricts the uptake of water and nutrients, higher temperatures in the summer due to the surrounding cement and asphalt, impacts by road salt in the winter, and soil compaction in the spring, summer and fall. This type of growing environment is a difficult spot for trees to establish new root growth for the long term. The Front Yard Tree Planting Program is a great opportunity to enhance the diversity of Brookline's streetscapes and increase the Town's canopy coverage.
Tree Planting Technologies and Infrastructure
The Parks and Open Space Division utilizes a variety of techniques to improve the establishment and survivability of new street trees, wherever possible. These include:
- Continuous tree planting strips
- Stormwater swales (including trees)
- Use of sand-based structural soil
- Sub-surface irrigation
- Silva cells
The Town recently partnered with a commercial property at the corner of Brookline Avenue and Washington Street to trial silva cells (pictured right).
Public Tree Maintenance
The Parks and Open Space Division maintains trees within the town right-of-way (i.e. the layout of a town street), in town parks, cemeteries, public building grounds, school grounds and other town properties. Trees along certain state highways within the town are maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (a state agency); Hammond Pond Parkway, for example. Trees along certain private ways within the town are the responsibility of the abutters. If you are not sure whether or not a tree that needs attention is a town tree, please contact us at 617-879-5650. The Town does not perform tree work on private property, so for that, you will need to hire a private contractor or arborist.
Tree-related Trimming, Maintenance, Management or Analysis
If you would like to request maintenance, management or evaluation of trees located on public streets, school grounds, parks and open space, please contact the Parks and Open Space Division at 617-879-5650 and leave your name, phone number, location of the tree and nature of your request, or click here to report online using BrookONLine. You can also use a SmartPhone to download the BrookONLine app to report issues from anywhere in town using a mobile phone. If the tree is located on private property, the owner of the property is responsible for its care.
Once received, your request will be entered into the Division's database and the town Arborist will prioritize and schedule the work. The Parks and Open Space Division receives dozens of requests each day during peak season, therefore the response to non-emergency tasks is not necessarily immediate. If you wish to follow up on a timetable for the work, please indicate this in your communication with the division.
Removal of Tree Limbs
The Town of Brookline is responsible for the removal of limbs from public trees only. This includes all trees located on public streets, school grounds, parks and open space. If the tree is located on private property, the owner of the property is responsible for its maintenance.
If you have a request to remove fallen tree limbs from public trees please contact the Parks and Open Space Division at 617-879-5650 and leave your name, phone number, location of the tree and nature of your request, or click here to report online using BrookONLine. You can also use a SmartPhone to download the BrookONLine app to report issues from anywhere in town using a mobile phone.
Shrub prunings and twigs are accepted in yard waste collection. Check with the Highway and Sanitation Division for a detailed description of what is and is not accepted in yard waste collection. For large tree limbs, we suggest you check your local telephone directory under "landscape contractors" or "tree services" to arrange pick up with a private hauler.
Utility Line Pruning
Line clearance pruning, while unsightly to many people, is necessary to ensure reliable service. The type of pruning that is used by NSTAR contractors is called directional pruning, and is the method that provides the best balance of maintaining utility air space as well as tree health. The Town of Brookline works closely with NSTAR to ensure their work practices are appropriate and reasonable. The best solution to the problem is planting the right tree in the right place. The town strives to limit the planting of trees under transmission lines to those species that will mature at a height of 25 feet or less.
Tree Roots & Utility Lines
While tree roots do not cause cracks in an otherwise undamaged sewer or water line, they will find their way into cracks or failures that already exist in the lines. We do not remove trees solely because of roots in the lines. The best defense is to make sure that your service lines are in good condition and that they are not cracked. If you find that roots have exploited a fault in the line, the best remedy is to replace that section of pipe. Alternatively, the pipe can be rodded with a pruning head.
Tree Roots & Sidewalks
Tree roots can certainly contribute to sidewalk failure, but generally do not cause the heaving initially. The town does not remove trees solely because of sidewalk failure. You may contact the Department of Public Works Highway and Sanitation Division regarding the condition of a sidewalk and we will work to repair the sidewalk without compromising the health of the tree.
Tree Leaves & Maintenance
The town will not remove trees because the leaves become a nuisance in the maintenance of gutters, drains or walkways. The benefits of shade trees along town streets (shading and cooling your property, regulating the flow of stormwater along your street, the aesthetic value) far outweigh the work created by fallen leaves.