The Planning Wing of RDG has been busy this past year working with several MA towns on nature-based solutions projects. Funding for these projects has come largely from the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Act grants. One of these initiatives is the Ayer/Devens Pocket Forest Project for the town of Ayer and the Devens Enterprise Commission.
WHAT IS A POCKET FOREST?
A pocket forest is a small planting designed to boost the livability of urban and suburban neighborhoods. These forest patches are hyper-diverse, very dense, and often include design features like snags to mimic some of the characteristics of forests. By (re)introducing a high diversity of well-adapted species and habitat features, these clusters of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants:
- provide food and shelter to local wildlife,
- sequester and store carbon,
- capture stormwater,
- filter air pollution, and
- help cool their surroundings
POCKET FOREST project
The aims of this particular project were to find the most suitable pilot sites in Ayer/Devens. Throughout the project, we collaborated with BSC Group and Linnean Solutions to carry out a robust community engagement, planning, and design process. Sites were chosen based on a number of criteria that considered ecological and social factors. Last spring, we joined with more than 50 community members of Ayer and Devens to install the first demonstration site. In the coming year, Ayer and Devens will be carrying on the momentum of this pilot project to install four more pocket forests.
THE POCKET FOREST MOVEMENT
In recent years, several initiatives have popularized the idea of pocket forests. One notable example is the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki, who developed a methodology called the “Miyawaki method” that involves creating dense, multi-layered forests of native plant species in small urban spaces. Miyawaki’s method has been adopted in several countries as a way to restore degraded areas. Indian engineer Shubhendu Sharma has built upon Miyawaki’s work and was invited by IVN Environmental Education in the Netherlands to plant Europe’s first pocket forest. IVN aims to install hundreds more across The Netherlands. Inspiring examples in the United Kingdom include the Bristol Urban Forest and The Edible Bus Stop initiative in London. In the US, the organization “Biodiversity for a Livable Climate” has led the implementation of two pocket forests in Cambridge, MA. These examples demonstrate the growing interest in pocket forests as a means to enhance urban environments, promote biodiversity, and engage communities in building resilience through Nature-based Solutions.