Connecticut State Task Force: Municipalities Should Do More Tree Maintenance and Care

Aug 20, 2012

A report on how to manage the trees alongside Connecticut's roads is expected to be released this week.

The study came out of Governor Malloy's Two Storm's Panel, following Tropical Storm Irene and last year's freak October snowstorm. It calls for municipalities to take more responsibility for managing what are known as "roadside forests." But with strapped budgets, cities and towns will have to get creative.  Bruce Lindsay is leading the way through Amazon-like weeds to a nursery he runs as president of Milford Trees. It’s a non-profit and all-volunteer tree group that has planted some 500 trees - that’s about 60 a year - in Milford for the last dozen years.
In Milford, like other communities in the state, tree care comes under the department of public works and that generally means cutting down problem trees. General tree care - not so much and planting is almost unheard of. "I think you would see less than 6 trees planted a year if it weren’t for our group," said Lindsay. This model of relying on non-profits and volunteers for tree planting and some maintenance is one that more communities are likely to consider as a way to implement the task force recommendation of a five-year management plan that includes pruning, removing and planting trees. A scant handful of communities do this already including New Haven. For 20 years the Urban Resources Initiative, which is a nonprofit affiliated with Yale - has planted, maintained and inventoried the city’s trees using about 1,000 volunteers. But URI’s director Colleen Murphy-Dunning, said it took awhile to build up trust with the city and that’s a lesson for other communities considering volunteer tree-care.
"Approach it with mutual respect and see the citizens as a potential partner to work with government," said Murphy-Dunning. "People are really willing and happy to be part of managing the resources right outside their front door so if given a chance to help inventory the street trees on their block or to learn how to prune young trees with handsaws, they can then of course to plant new trees and water and care for newly planted trees."
But others cautioned against over-reliance on volunteers. One was Dave Goodson, who manages vegetation for Connecticut Light and Power’s parent company Northeast Utilities "It’s part of the solution, but it’s not a big part because volunteers can only do so much," said Goodson. Eric Hammerling is task force chair and the executive director of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. He was among many who said volunteer efforts don’t absolve communities of spending more money than they have been on trees. "If we don’t have additional resources at the municipal level, at the state level, then none of the recommendations of the task force are going to be implemented or successful," said Hammerling. Back in Milford, Bruce Lindsay admitted with help form the mayor, his group and the city’s DPW are learning to work together.
"We don’t try to go around and just plant trees like Johnny Appleseed and become problematic planting invasive species and stuff like that," said Lindsay. "We put these small trees in the ground and many years go by and water and sunlight and all of a sudden they’re this ginormous sculpture this piece of living wood and tissue rising above the road. It’s pretty magnificent if you think about it." Read more at CTMirror.org.