The Esplanade is home to over 1,700 trees, making the park a critical green corridor along the Charles River. These trees provide valuable ecological benefits, including storing carbon dioxide, filtering stormwater, and providing a home for small mammals and birds. They enchant visitors in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom, offer shade in the hot summer months, and turn spectacular colors each fall.
Although the tree canopy may look healthy from a distance, data from a 2015 inventory commissioned by the Esplanade Association in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), as well as a recent assessment performed in a joint effort by the DCR’s arborist and our certified arborist on staff, shows underlying weaknesses that pose a threat to the long-term vitality of the canopy. Just four tree species make up nearly 60% of the park’s trees, making them vulnerable to insect deforestation and less attractive as habitat for diverse wildlife species. In addition, 15% of trees are dead or in poor condition, posing a hazard to public safety. These high-risk trees, which have deteriorated to a point where they can no longer be saved, will continue to decline, making them more susceptible to pests, diseases, and wood-decaying fungi. Trees suffering from these conditions can become structurally unstable, resulting in branches, or even whole trees, falling.
But there’s hope ahead! In order to ensure a healthy tree canopy along the Charles River Esplanade for generations to come, the Esplanade Association has established the first-of-its kind Lasting Esplanade Arbor Fund (L.E.A.F.). The first 20 new trees of several hundred to be added as part of L.E.A.F. in the next ten years were planted in fall 2019, with 32 more plantings to come in spring 2020. Planting new and healthy trees is the first step in creating a healthier and more resilient tree canopy along the Esplanade. The L.E.A.F. project and tree planting plan follow Arthur Shurcliff’s historic plan for the Esplanade and was approved by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the Conservation Commission.
As part of this work, 32 of the park’s dead and dying trees will be removed in spring 2020. This work will be performed with the support of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Partnership Matching Funds Program. DCR will lead and complete the tree removal process. For each high-risk tree removed along the Esplanade, another tree will be replanted, including more diverse species such as the American Sweetgum, Black Tupelo ‘Wildfire’, Red Maple ‘October Glory’, and several other types and cultivars.
The L.E.A.F. project is made possible by the Esplanade Association in partnership with DCR and the generous donors and organizations listed below. You can learn more about our tree care efforts at Esplanade.org/Trees. If you have any questions, please contact: Alison McRae, Capital Projects Manager at the Esplanade Association, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.227.0365 – Ext. 407 or Olivia K. Dorrance, Press Secretary at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, at email@example.com or 617-626-4967.
L.E.A.F. is Made Possible By:
Esplanade tree care is made possible with the support of:
Boston Athletic Association
The Biber Foundation
City of Boston Community Preservation Fund
Beacon Hill Garden Club
The Garden Club of the Back Bay
Boston Planning and Development Agency
2019 Visionary Award Recipient Dan Mathieu
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)