Building Community Resilience Through Planting Miyawaki Forests & Designing CoolPockets

Urban Garden at Mercantile Center with Densely Planted Trees

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Thanks to state funding, Worcester will soon be home to four new public spaces designed to reduce the impact of extreme heat in neighborhoods that need the most relief. Our 2023 Municipal Preparedness Vulnerability (MVP) action grant will assist with planting two pilot Miyawaki Pocket Forests on municipal properties and designing two CoolPockets in some of our most densely populated neighborhoods. These projects will advance our goal of promoting climate resilience to extreme heat, as well as many other goals related to air quality, flooding, biodiversity, community building and resilience.

Miyawaki Forests are densely planted, multi-canopied, small (1,000 – 10,000 square feet) urban forests that are proving to be an excellent solution to many sustainability and resilience problems in dense cities with little space to spare – improving air quality and health, and reducing urban heat and flooding. They have demonstrated remarkably high growth and survival rates due to the planting method, which also fosters symbiotic relationships between trees, shrubs, fungi, and microbial life in the soil. Worcester's pilot builds on experience of other Massachusetts municipalities (Cambridge, Ayer/Devens) as well as other cities in the U.S. and globally. One Miyawaki Forest site has been confirmed for the McGrath parking lot behind the Worcester Public Library, while the second location is in progress but will be announced soon.

Confirmed Site for Miyawaki Pocket Forest at McGrath Lot
A confirmed site of a Miyawaki Forest at McGrath Parking Lot.

CoolPockets will provide shady nooks for neighbors to gather, relax, and find respite from the heat island effect caused by a concentration of buildings, concrete sidewalks, and asphalt. The CoolPockets will be designed, but not built during this grant cycle. One CoolPocket site has been confirmed for the Columbus Park Elementary School and the second site will be announced soon.

Via the City's Department of Sustainability and Resilience, Worcester was awarded a $409,000 MVP grant for these projects, with an additional 25 percent commitment of City funds and in-kind support toward the total project cost. The City has contracted with BSC Group, which has extensive experience in urban landscape design with community participation, and Biodiversity for Livable Climate, with expertise in planting Miyawaki Forests in New England. We expect the planting of the pilot Miyawaki Forests and designs for the CoolPockets by the end of June 2024.

City Sidewalk With Wall on Right and Cars Parked on Left Looking Towards Lincoln Square
Worcester's urban vibrant environment is often lacking trees and their associated benefits.

Both the Miyawaki Forest and CoolPocket sites will be in Massachusetts-designated Environmental Justice Communities with high heat vulnerability. Our paid Community Liaison, Guillermo Creamer, is partnering with numerous community organizations to engage neighbors from the start to finish.

Please come back to visit this page as we post about our progress! And if you want to get involved, please email GreenWorcester@worcesterma.gov.

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Sustainability & Resilience
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Worcester, MA 01608

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