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Happy Arbor Day, Boston!

We’re celebrating Arbor Day 2021 with the City of Boston Tree Warden, Max Ford-Diamond. 

Arbor Day

In honor of the 149th celebration of Arbor Day, we sat down with Boston Park and Recreation employee, Max Ford-Diamond, a certified Arborist and the City of Boston’s Tree Warden who was also recently featured in the Boston Globe. We caught up him at Franklin Park during his work day and got to know him a little better. Here’s what we learned:

So Max, what does the City of Boston Tree Warden do exactly? 

Arbor Day

I manage and oversee the maintenance and day-to-day operations of the street trees and the park trees that the City of Boston owns. We are a constituent-driven division, so when a tree goes down, people call 311, use the 311 app, or they call the Mayor’s Office. It is my job to make sure all those cases get handled. I make sure an inspector goes out and looks at the trees and then I deal with the contractors who are going to be doing the maintenance on those trees and following up with those crews and inspecting their work. I also write and manage the contracts that those crews are working for, so I put out pruning contracts, removal contracts, planting contracts, I oversee all of that work as well as the day-to-day tree emergencies that come up, calls everyday where tree limbs are down. I have a two person crew from the City that helps me with that. So my day is typically answering a lot of emails, getting crews their work, making sure they can get their work done, trouble shooting for them, closing out work orders, doing inspections, attending tree hearings. Every day is busy.

How many trees do you take care of? 

We’re doing a tree inventory right now as part of the Urban Forest Plan, and we think we have about 40,000 street trees on City property. Which is good of course. But we should know more once the Urban Forest Plan is done. That number will probably go up once the tree inventory is done. 

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Photo Credit: Boston Globe

What’s an Urban Forest Plan? 

The Urban Forest Plan’s goal is to develop strategies to grow and protect Boston’s tree canopy. The first step of the plan is to do a tree inventory. Right now, there are five arborists going out, literally walking every street in the City of Boston looking for street trees. Measuring them, plotting them on a map, giving us their condition, assessment, and general health of those trees. In the end, we’ll be able to do all the analytics on that data. Ya know, to know all the trees we have, where they are, what the makeup is of their species, their quantity, where there are gaps in our tree canopy. We don’t want to have a mono-culture of course, we don’t want to plant just one species of tree, so this Urban Forest Plan, the first of its kind for the City, will help guide how we move forward with protecting and planting our tree canopy. 

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What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do? 

It always sparks a conversation. People ask “what do you do,” and I tell them I’m an arborist in the City of Boston. And then they typically say:

What? What do you even mean? There are trees? Why? Huh?

Do you live in the City? Yeah.  

Did you grow up here? Yeah. 

But you’re into trees? Yes. 

People then want to know more and talk about the trees in their yard and then it goes from there.

What are best practices for taking care of a City of Boston street tree if you have one in front of your house or business? 

Arbor Day

I would say the most common mistake is people putting too much mulch up against the base of a tree. We don’t want a mulch volcano. You want the root flare (where the tree meets the ground) to be visible. The ABCs are water, appropriate mulching and keeping debris, trash and dogs away from young trees.

What’s your favorite type of tree? 

That’s a tough one. There are so many types of trees in the City of Boston, and especially in Franklin Park. Cherry trees, Red Maples, White Pines, Oak Trees. One of my favorites has got to be the Kentucky Coffee Tree though. It’s just such a random place for a Kentucky Coffee Tree to be growing. You’re not going to see too many of them. 

Arbor Day
Max out in West Roxbury doing a tree inspection. (Photo Credit: Boston Globe)

* All photos curtesy of The Boston Globe. 

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