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North Shore natives work to give Lynn and its residents free trees

Lynn, Ma. 6-12-18. Travis Wojcik, left, and Cristian Abarca and one of the trees they planted on Lynn Common. (Owen O'Rourke)

Tavis Wojcik, left and Cristian Abarca. (Owen O’Rourke)

LYNN — The city is about to become a lot greener and it’s all thanks to the free trees being planted everywhere.

Lynn has been named one of the newest cities to benefit from a conservation program which is partnered between the city of Lynn and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).  The program is funded by a grant from the Gateway Cities program through the Executive Office of Energy and the Environment and it will continue for the next two years.

“We work partnered with the state to target environmental justice cities, ones that don’t see a lot of programs or community gardens that help the environment, and Lynn is one of those,” said Cristian Abarca.

Abarca, who grew up in Marblehead, has been working with Peabody resident Travis Wojcik and their supervisor, Malden native Clay Larsen, to plant free trees in Lynn Common, open areas surrounding Lynn Highlands and certain parts of West Lynn, and even going door-to-door trying to get residents to sign up. The program has 40 varieties of trees which gives residents the option of having one that offers environmental benefits or one that provides an aesthetically pleasing effect, such as flower trees or apple trees.

“Variety is beneficial because in the old days cities would plant one tree and with that it could get a disease which would wipe out all the trees in the city. So by planting multiple varieties you protect trees from being devastated by losing them all at once,” said Larsen.

Some of the varieties can help mitigate the urban heat island effect, when heat rises from the black tar tops on the streets, and they can also help to reduce homeowner costs for heating in the winters and cooling in the summers, according to Abarca. If enough trees are planted, it can help reduce all of those changing wind and weather effects, keep the air quality clean, and help with Lynn’s severe flooding issues; with the right water intensive tree, upwards of 150-200 gallons of groundwater can be absorbed in a day.

“Increasing the canopy coverage in Lynn, like the amount of actual coverage from these trees, has so many different benefits and the biggest one to me is that they increase the air quality and decrease pollutants so people like me with asthma can breathe better,” said Wojcik. “There’s a ton of pollution and the typical tree can remove over one ton of carbon in the air in a typical lifetime, so if you get 250 trees planted over the next 50 years you can remove 250 tons of carbon pollution.”

Through working together on other local conservative efforts, Larsen and Wojcik met at the beginning of this year where they bonded over discussions of transportation and climate change. Before meeting the Peabody native, Larsen was canvassing all by himself and becoming slightly overwhelmed, so Wojcik joined him, bringing Abarca on board as well. With the two young men going door to door, Larsen could oversee the tree planting throughout the various environmental justice cities.

After a resident signs up for a tree, a representative from DCR will reach out to them directly to plan a day when their land can get surveyed, go through the different kinds of trees and help choose which type will be the most beneficial for that specific home. From there, the final step is scheduling a day to get the tree planted by one of the DCR foresters.

“I think if you have the time and you have the land it’s worth it because we have the specialists that can tell you where exactly you should plant a tree and tell you how to keep it well fed so it grows into a proper tree that will provide environmental benefits and help you reduce energy costs,” said Abarca. “Our whole motto is it’s free and helping homeowners in every aspect possible.”

Even though the trees are free and provide a number of benefits, both to homeowners and the community itself, Abarca and Wojcik acknowledge there has been some pushback from residents in signing up. Many residents fear having to pay a significant amount of money for upkeep or they don’t think they have enough space to plant one.

“When they planted the trees back in the day in Lynn they didn’t plant them in right or didn’t take care of them well so now a lot of these trees are dead and it’s costing the homeowners to move them or cut them down,” said Abarca. “They weren’t done right earlier so now they’re less willing to plant one because of wrongful previous attempts.”

If you cluster trees in parks and open area, it creates shade which can help the temperature drop anywhere between 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, which is one reason most of the planting and canvassing is done during the beginning and the end of the summer, according to Wojcik. The contact number for the program’s Lynn branch is 617-626-1502, but the program takes a break from planting in July.

“Trees are fun and beautiful and they make your area nicer and people love plants, but within the larger macro perspective is climate change adaptation,” said Larsen. “We are supposed to have the climate of Georgia by the end of the century, so our summers are getting hotter, which means we have to plant them now so we can be ready for when the climate gets hotter in like 30 years.”

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