Spring Promises to 'Regreen' Worcester with New Urban Forest

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - Everyone looks forward to the greening of our streets and backyards as winter loses its grip on the region. This spring three students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute will help Mother Nature make the city a little greener than usual through a project titled "Regreening Worcester."

"We've worked with the Worcester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Department to develop a handbook for citizens interested in planting street trees in their neighborhood," explained WPI junior Erin Sullivan of Fitchburg, Mass. "This handbook is supposed to be a resource for anyone with questions for the forestry department. It covers how to select trees for your own yard and what laws govern shade trees here in Worcester as well. It's a community involvement project really."

Sullivan and team members Jessica Caron and Robert Booker, both juniors from Leominster, Mass., have been working with city foresters to create a plan to bring more trees to city streets. The effort is part of a graduation requirement at WPI called an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), in which students tackle problems and issues that explore interactions among science, technology and society. The WPI project advisors are WPI professors David DiBiasio and Chrysanthe Demetry.

In a letter to City Manager Thomas R. Hoover, Michael V. O'Brien, commissioner of the Worcester Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Department, described the far-reaching effects the regreening program hopes to achieve and how WPI students are helping.

"These students ... shall perform research on all aspects of this complex process and shall assemble all the necessary text, graphics and mapping for this manual," he noted. "I must also note the IQP effort shall not end there. This is a long-term commitment by WPI to this community. This program will track and assess the implementation of the urban forest maintenance and management program and its direct relationship to the replanting of our streets for years to come. It will use the standards of science to produce qualitative and quantitative reports on the success of the overall planting programs."

The handbook will tell homeowners about the process of working with the city for memorial trees and other tree plantings. The guidelines include how to plant and how to maintain a new tree.

"This is a tremendous benefit to the city," O'Brien said. "I must thank WPI for their interest and their support. It is the first of many great things to come as we move forward with the implementation of this sweeping and aggressive urban forest maintenance and management plan."

The WPI project team will be working on the regreening effort through the end of the school year. Sullivan, the daughter of Linda Couture of Fitchburg, is majoring in mechanical engineering. Caron is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald W. Lanigan of Leominster and is majoring in biochemistry; Booker, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Roland Booker of Leominster, is a computer science major.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with research projects conducted on campus and around the world.