Everything’s coming up roses, daisies, and trees at urban empty spaces

By Pamela McLoughlin
New Haven (August 19, 2007)- A corner lot at Lloyd Street and Saltonstall Avenue once covered by the remnants of two demolished houses is now a patch of serenity that blooms at various times with white roses, red tulips, daisies and hydrangea. Mothers in the neighborhood once viewed the lot as a hazard to young children. But now, said neighboring resident Adeli Dearce – who was instrumental in the cleanup – her only fear is that her son, 8, might injure a butterfly. The little park with the stone bench is now the home of Easter egg hunts and residents are protective of the parcel, calling Dearce if they suspect any problems.

“I love it,” Dearce said. “We’ve had a lot of help from the neighborhood.” The site is one of many transformed through the Community Greenspace Program, a partnership between neighbors, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the city’s Livable City Initiative and Urban Resources Initiative and the Land Trust. United Way recently joined the cause as well.
This year, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven awarded $150,000 to support 42 community green space projects and 47 community gardens in the 2007 season and has given more than $2 million to the program over the last 12 years. The Livable City Initiative also gave $50,000 this year.
According to an independent study the Community Foundation commissioned two years ago, “gardens and green space projects have strengthened New Haven’s neighborhoods and resulted in significant revitalization,” including by improving property values and reducing crime in those areas.
The park next door to Dearce was one stop on a recent tour of a dozen lots of various sizes that went from derelict to delightful with the hard work of community volunteers and interns from Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “It’s been amazing, we’ve learned so much about landscape design and how to deal with people,” said Yale intern Kim Yuan-Farrell, who worked on seven green space sites.
Greenspace Manager Christopher Ozyck of Urban Resources Initiative, was a tour guide on one of two school buses packed with volunteers and program officials excited to see the fruits of all the labor. Ozyck told his audience that trees planted through the program have a 95 to 98 percent survival rate because they use trees appropriate for urban areas and other conditions. He said trees planted by the city often have about a 50 percent survival rate. Ozyck noted on the tour that cemeteries were the nation’s first greenspaces and that people once picnicked in them before proper parks were created.
He showed his audience how a line of pear trees on one street was used to provide shade and makes the neighborhood look cohesive; in another neighborhood that was said to be rife with prostitution, flowers blossomed along the narrow road and a rock garden on the corner drew “oohs” and “aahs” from those touring.
In Wooster Square, the effort has been to gradually replace the cherry blossom trees – remove three, plant three – so that when the mature trees finish their 30 to 40-year life span they won’t have to start over with all tiny trees. Ozyck noted some of the challenges in the city, including how people in the Chatham Square area sometimes have to replace trees that are run over by stolen cars.
“One tree can make a difference on a whole street,” he said.
Related Resources:
New Haven Register
Livable City Initiative
Urban Resources Initiative
Yale School of Forestry