By Abbe Smith
New Haven, CT (July 12, 2010)- Volunteers and youth workers are digging in to a project that aims to plant 10,000 trees in the city over the next five years. Last fall, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. unveiled his vision for a more tree-covered city and the tree planting is now fully under way.
The purpose of DeStefano’s Tree Haven 10K campaign is to improve quality of life for residents by beautifying the city, providing shade, improving air quality and generally reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The campaign is sponsored by PSEG Power Connecticut, the City of New Haven and the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Leading the mission is non-profit group Urban Resource Initiative, which is based at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Services.
“It really began because we learned there are more trees being removed than planted. We have a lot of our tree canopy that is aging and is in decline, so they are dying off,” said Colleen Murphy Dunning, director of URI. URI has multiple programs to address the tree-planting goal. The first is Community Green Space, a volunteer-driven program that has been planting trees, shrubs and flowers on city land for the past 16 years.
The second program is called Green Skills and recruits high school students to work part-time jobs planting trees throughout the city. The Green Skills student-workers do most of their planning during the spring and fall. But certain occasions call for work over the summer. Take Wednesday’s job planting trees in Quinnipiac River Park to replace two trees destroyed by vandals. A group of students, URI staff and Yale Office of Sustainability interns braved scorching hot temperatures to dig ditches big enough to plant two hawthorn trees. Kimberly Rivera, a 15-year-old Common Ground student, put down her shovel to ponder her reasons for planting trees. “It brings beauty and life to the city,” she said.
The mission to plant 10,000 trees in the city, half by URI and half by private entities, has roots in the growing trend of more trees being cut down in the city than planted. The other problem is that some neighborhoods have fewer trees than others. A University of Vermont study using satellite imagery to calculate how much of a city is covered by trees revealed a disparity of trees throughout New Haven.
For example, Dunning said the city’s Fair Haven and Hill neighborhoods have fewer trees than West Rock and Westville. A big factor is West Rock park, she added. Neighborhoods with more parks tend to have more trees. But much can be accomplished by planting trees on city-owned space between sidewalks and streets or in parking lots to increase tree-cover in a neighborhood.