Chicopee Mayor John Vieau introduces Gov. Maura Healey to Stefanik first graders.
Reminder Publishing photo by Trent Levakis

CHICOPEE — Stefanik School in Chicopee welcomed a special guest in Gov. Maura Healey on Arbor Day, who visited the school for a special announcement regarding the state’s new Cooling Corridors program in a celebration of Arbor Day.

First graders gathered outside to meet Healey and assist in the tree planting following the conference.

Cooling Corridors is a new program that supports tree plantings in what are considered environmental justice communities. The program builds off the successful Greening the Gateway Cities Program, which just planted its 40,000th tree at Stefanik.

“Today we’re here to celebrate a really cool program. Our Cooling Corridors Program is about greening our cities. Over the last 10 years we have provided $30 million,” Healey said, which received a shocked reaction from the group of first graders outside to meet the governor. “Including 2,300 trees right here in Chicopee.”

Joining Healey was Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper, Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Brian Arrigo and Chicopee Mayor John Vieau. The Greening the Gateway Cities Program operates in 23 of 26 Gateway Cities across the state to increase urban tree canopy, and the Cooling Corridors Program will expand this work to include cities and towns outside those 26 designated gateway cities.

“There’s no better way to celebrate Earth Week and Arbor Day than to get out in the community and plant a tree,” said Healey. “Our Greening the Gateway Cities Program and the new Cooling Corridors initiative help bring down the temperatures in urban areas, saving residents energy costs, increasing property values and creating good-paying local jobs.”

The EEA’s new Cooling Corridors program will support municipalities, nonprofits and other organizations in their tree-planting initiatives. The program will specifically target walking routes in areas that suffer from extreme heat, such as urban heat islands and hotspots, within environmental justice neighborhoods.

Cooling Corridors will prioritize projects that help reduce local heat sinks, facilitate urban heat mitigation and increase the regional tree canopy.

“Every tree we plant today is a down payment on cooler temperatures in the years to come,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “Our tree canopy provides energy efficiency for entire communities. Launching the Cooling Corridors program will help us better target environmental justice communities outside of Gateway Cities that are contending with extreme heat and poor air quality. We’re excited to launch this program today, alongside Chicopee students and residents who will reap the benefits of these beautiful new trees.”

Trees will be planted between April and June and from September to November with an average of 5 trees per acre that aims to benefit 15 to 25 homes through providing shade that lowers surface temperatures and decreases heat loss in poorly insulated homes.

“We’re thrilled to take part in this event, celebrating the achievements of the Greening the Gateway Cities program. General John J. Stefanik School was honored to plant the 40,000th tree, showing our support for this initiative. Hosting this ceremony at our school fills us with pride, and we were delighted to welcome so many visitors,” said Stefanik Principal Amanda Theriault. “The expansion of this program, along with the introduction of Cooling Corridors, reaffirms our dedication to creating sustainable urban environments and enhancing the quality of life for all Chicopee residents.”

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