After a $9,253 match from the Sustainable CT Community Match Fund, the Jonah Center Tree Fund now has $20,000 available for planting along streets and sidewalks in Middletown and Portland. The project was initiated and received strong community support in recognition of the large number of trees that have died in recent years due to old age, drought, pests such as gypsy moths and emerald ash borers, and the replacement of sidewalks. Climate change has had a significant impact on the specific tree species that are suitable to our new southern New England environment.
The vision of the campaign was to plant 2-inch diameter shade trees such as maples, oaks, and lindens in locations that would yield the greatest public benefits. Those benefits include beautification, shade, cooling of pavement, improved walkability, removal of air pollution, better physical and mental health, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and overall quality of life.
According to John Hall, the founder and Executive Director of the Jonah Center and the project’s coordinator, “Trees are like open-air cathedrals. They inspire us, calm our frazzled minds, and give us hope. These new shade trees represent a long-term investment in the quality of life in our community. As the effects of climate change mount, we need to act now to make our neighborhoods healthier, safer, and more appealing in the decades ahead. Our campaign originally set out to raise $6,000. The fact that we ended up with over $19,000 shows how many residents appreciate the emotional and economic importance of trees in our lives.”
Over the summer, Hall will work with Jane Harris, local arborist, Chair of Middletown’s Urban Forestry Commission, and partner in the Replace Our Trees Campaign, to plan the next steps. In Middletown, an area of focus will be the North End, where the tree canopy is less extensive due to smaller lot sizes. Other sites, including along South Main Street, are also being considered. In Portland, the focus area is the residential neighborhood near the Town Hall and along Main Street, where some excellent vacant sites exist due to the wide state right-of-way.
The Public Works Departments of Middletown and Portland will help identify the best sites, where tall trees will not interfere with overhead or underground utilities. The municipalities will need permits from the Connecticut Department of Transportation for some locations, and permission from private property owners for others. Planting is scheduled to begin in September.
The project was supported by a crowdfunding campaign that received a dollar-for-dollar match from the Sustainable CT Community Match Fund, which is an initiative of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University that is funded by the Smart Seed Fund, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and Connecticut Green Bank.