Working with Community Block Grant Funds

(Wilmington, DE)- The Delaware Center for Horticulture receives $50,000 a year in Community Development Block Grant funds for street tree planting and maintenance.



Category: Partnership Building, Fundraising
OVERVIEW
The Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), through a partnership with the City of Wilmington, receives $50,000 a year in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for street tree planting and maintenance. This allows DCH to expand its planting efforts and to reinforce the connection between greening programs and community revitalization.
BACKGROUND AND COMPONENTS
Originally founded as the Garden Club of Wilmington in 1977, the Delaware Center for Horticulture promotes the knowledge and appreciation of gardening, horticulture and conservation through greening initiatives such as community gardens, public landscaping and tree programs, and educational efforts.
From its inception, DCH has been interested not only in increasing the number of trees planted in Wilmington but also in encouraging neighborhood residents to take pride in their communities and their environment. At its onset, DCH sponsored tree plantings at which volunteers provided the labor and DCH provided the trees. In addition, DCH sponsored an annual city gardens contest to bolster neighborhood pride. These programs gave DCH a significant amount of local visibility.
As a result, two local government officials realized that DCH’s efforts were a tool for community revitalization and would be an appropriate use of CDBG funds. In the late 1970s, their efforts led to the City of Wilmington setting aside a portion of its CDBG funds for tree planting and maintenance.
The current allocation of $50,000 is used for both labor and trees. DCH oversees the plantings in conjunction with neighborhood and community organizations in the targeted communities. Neighborhood residents assist in determining where trees will be planted. DCH subcontracts the planting to professional landscapers. Neighborhood residents provide the maintenance required.
DCH is a citywide organization and continues to help neighborhoods that do not qualify for CDBG funding. In addition, DCH operates a community garden program for vacant lots and public spaces, provides landscaping at major public areas and parks, sponsors a number of special events including the annual city gardens contest, and offers educational opportunities.
RESULTS
DCH plants about 350 street trees in the City of Wilmington annually (over 4,000 in the past decade), using funds from state legislator contracts and Community Development Block Grants. Approximately 60 of these trees are funded through CDBG. In addition, each year CDBG monies are used to remove about 10 diseased trees and to prune approximately five to 10 trees.
LESSONS LEARNED
1. A comprehensive city street tree inventory is a very powerful tool when seeking funding. Being able to quantify the need for plantings and maintenance is key. In 2002, DCH was able to conduct an inventory for Wilmington through an U.S. Forest Service grant.
2. Since CDBG funds tend to focus on housing activities, partnering with local housing organizations such as Habitat for Humanity greatly enhances your ability to attract CDBG funds. It is important to show how trees are integral to the property and to property improvement and community revitalization efforts. Emphasize how a property is not the house alone, but the entire area, including landscaping and trees.
3. Involve neighborhood residents from the start in any tree planting effort because they will be the people who maintain the trees over their lifetime. Without community buy-in and support, tree plantings are not successful over the long term.
4. CDBG funds are restricted to certain neighborhoods based on federal guidelines and local priorities. As a result, other funds must be found for neighborhoods that do not qualify for CDBG funds. More affluent neighborhoods typically do not qualify for CDBG funds and, at the same time, they are often the areas with the oldest trees that have the highest maintenance needs.
5. Local governments are more likely to use CDBG funds for tree plantings and maintenance if their constituents support these efforts. Encourage the community to let their local officials know that they want and care about these programs.
Contact Information:
Patrice Sheehan
Tree Program Manager
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE 19806
Phone: (302) 658-6262
Fax: (302) 658-6267
(c) 2005 Alliance for Community Trees