Hartford, CT (April 24, 2009)- Was there a sense of irony in the announcement from Mayor Eddie Perez’s office that Hartford had been named a “Tree City USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation? The carefully worded press release this week noted that the city is “committed to building partnerships in the community that promote healthy trees.” However, the city needs to build partnerships because last year it laid off the city forester.
It’s not exactly clear how the city managed to get the “Tree City” honor, shared by 3,310 communities across the country. The requirements are that a city have a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance.
Hartford appears to be behind the bush on most of these requirements. But as we celebrate Arbor Day today, and celebrate we should, there is good news. There is a committee working on a new tree ordinance, which will create a tree commission, set guidelines for the replacement of trees, and identify and give special status to trees of significance.
This is a serious step forward. Trees are tremendously important to the city. They are attractive, they clean the air and water, they cool homes and save energy. Research finds that street trees help calm traffic and even lower crime rates.
A survey two years ago by the Knox Parks Foundation found that Hartford had a half-million trees and a 26 percent tree canopy cover. That’s good, but the cities that are serious about trees want to reach 35 percent. The Knox report recommended the city plant 16,000 trees on public land, with the hope of inspiring a similar effort on private property.
What an opportunity for stimulus jobs. As Knox’s longtime executive director Jack Hale put it, nothing is as shovel-ready as planting a tree. Unfortunately, there are no federal stimulus funds earmarked for trees. Nonetheless, a national organization called the Alliance for Community Trees has identified some funding, such as water-quality money, that can be used to plant trees.
The nicest streets in Hartford are those that are lined with trees. Let’s line more of them.
Arbor Day: Let’s Plant More Trees In Hartford
Knox Parks Foundation