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Free tree program greeted with ardor

October 9, 2013

PAWTUCKET — Maybe it’s the concerns about global warming. Or just nostalgia for shady lanes. Whatever the reason, residents have responded positively to an offer from the city to have trees planted along sidewalks, free of charge.

The program, funded under the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant program, is being administered through the Department of Public Works. DPW Director Lance Hill said that so far, about 50 people have submitted applications to receive the trees. Applications will continue to be accepted until Nov. 1 for the first round of planting in the spring of 2014.

Hill said the response was “somewhat surprising — in a good way. We didn’t know if we would get, like, two people wanting trees. And we’ve had a number of neighborhoods, where people went out and urged their neighbors to join in,” he said. He added that having the tree planting cover a particular street or neighborhood actually makes things easier from a logistical standpoint.

The new program that brings free trees to sidewalks outside of the homes of city residents replaces a former shared cost program where the city split the cost of the tree with residents 50-50. That program had mixed results, Hill said.

Under the new program, approved participants will have a choice of four types of trees: Chinese Elm, Bowhall Red Maple, Littleleaf Linden and London Plan Tree. For trees that would be sited under power lines, the two choices are Chanticleer Pear and Japanese Zelkova.

The trees, about 2 to 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter, must be spaced a minimum of 50 feet apart. The city will use a licensed arborist contractor to install the trees, and provide initial mulch, with the long-term maintenance being the responsibility of the property owner.

Hill said he is not sure how much money in CBGB funds will be allocated to the tree planting, since the deadline is not yet over. He said that once the final batch of applications is approved, the city will go out to bid and get an installation cost per tree. “We’re using this as a little bit of a test case,” he said. “But we’ve had a lot of interest so far.”

Hill said his department will review all of the applications to see if there are any obvious conflicts, such as engineering issues where trees would be blocking street signs or utility poles or pose visibility of safety issues. “We also want to see what kinds of trees are being requested. We’d like to get a consistent look and feel to a street,” he said.

Hill stressed that this program is for sidewalk trees only, as part of funding earmarked for streetscape improvements. This does not cover trees for residential yards, he noted. “We’ve gotten a lot of inquires about this. People thought we were giving away trees they could plant in their backyard,” he said.

Hill said that the approved applications are subject to funding availability. Those not accepted 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 DPW at 728-0500, ext. 339 for information on the tree program.

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

 

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