By Ruth Seward
Sitting in the middle of an environmental justice neighborhood, the 26.7 acres of Hadwen Arboretum in Worcester, offers refuges from the dense urban environment that surrounds it. There over 42 tree specimens remaining from the original trees planted by Obadiah Hadwen. Many of these trees stand over 60 feet tall, creating a majestic canopy that is awe inspiring to those who hike on the woodland paths of this Clark University property. The public uses the walking trails on this property and there is a designated piece of the city wide ‘East/West Trail’ cutting through the arboretum, encouraging folks to walk through the land.
Bequeathed to Clark University in 1907, the Hadwen property’s arboretum status has been in name only. Currently, thanks to a university professor and his hands– on environmental class, there is work being done to obtain arboretum status for this parcel using the guidelines of the national organization ArbNet. Working with the USDA, DCR & Worcester Tree Initiative, steps are being taken to identify and label trees, map the trees, clear invasive plants in the understory and redefine the walking trails. Gaining arboretum status will help keep a positive focus on this preserved land.
Trees are critical for the health and well- being of our urban ecosystems. Through their photosynthesis process, they provide oxygen for mammals, including humans. They reduce temperatures of the urban environment, providing relief from urban heat island effect. They help soak up the rain, reducing stormwater runoff and urban flooding. They provide food, wildlife habitat, shade, and quiet places to walk. They block wind, reduce noise & help us reduce energy consumption in the summer and winter. Studies show that when humans walk in the woods – their stress levels decrease, positively affecting health.
Protecting large wooded green space in a city like Worcester is critical for recreation and health in Worcester. Through our Master Tree Stewards pruning program, Worcester Tree Initiative (WTI) lends support to the efforts of Clark University to manage and protect this type of greenspace. Though our goal is to prune young city of Worcester street trees that have been planted over the last 10 years, we also work in urban greenspaces, to support the community groups caring for these spaces. Last week, we worked in the Hadwen Arboretum, with Clark University students and their professor, assisting them in their efforts to improve this treasured green space. It is wonderful to see their preservation efforts improving this lovely urban treasure.