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Residents Can Receive Trees Through the ‘West Hartford Tree Project’

A rainbow highlights a Red Oak tree on Arlington Road. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Tree Project, now in its third year, has launched the fundraising portion of the campaign.

By Ronni Newton

Ted Goerner and his wife, Carolyn, both West Hartford Public Schools science teachers, are passionate about the important role of trees in the environment, and they have turned that passion into action by launching the West Hartford Tree Project, now in its third year.

“For the past two years we were giving away bare root seedlings,”said Goerner, who teaches eighth grade science at Sedgwick Middle School. “This year we are planning to give away larger, older, potted trees,” he said, in addition to the bare root seedlings. The larger trees will be immediately more visible throughout town, will be easier to document, and will also be more likely to survive, he added.

The primary goal of the West Hartford Tree Project is “to protect and preserve the West Hartford tree canopy which has been severely battered in recent years by drought, ice, wind, disease, old age, invasive pests, and cutting,” said Goerner. The town’s canopy trees have been the victim of recent major storms – most visibly the Halloween storm in 2011 – as well as successive years of drought, and disease like Dutch Elm disease.

“Canopy trees need to be replaced as they age,” Goerner said, and he hopes residents aren’t scared to add trees to their landscape due to the devastation that some of the recent storms have caused. Planting the right kind of trees is important to sustainability.

“They will all be native trees that will support pollinators and birds,” Goerner said, supporting entire food pyramids. The trees to be given away this year will include pines, sycamores, maples and oaks, especially the Red Oak, and the Black Gum Tupelo. The first year they gave away conifers, and in 2022 it was deciduous trees, but this year will be a mixture of both.

The West Hartford Tree Project is raising funds now, using Patronicity, and their goal is to raise $2,000 which will then be matched by a Sustainable CT grant, for a total budget of $4,000. Thus far $825 has been raised, and the campaign runs through Jan. 15, 2023. There must be at least 20 donors to qualify for the Sustainable CT grant, Goerner noted. To date there are 12.

Those funds will be used to purchase young trees from the nonprofit Connecticut Conservation District and they will be given away, free of charge, to any West Hartford resident who has requested one until the supply of purchased trees has been exhausted.

As soon as the fundraising is completed, residents will be able to sign up and then the West Hartford Tree Project team will order the trees, and Tom and Rachel Martin will organize the distribution on the Saturday of Arbor Day week in April 2023. Any trees not picked up get donated to the town and planted on town property. Goerner said has has worked closely with Director of Leisure and Social Services Helen Rubino-Turco, Westmoor Park Director Doug Jackson, and Director of Public Works John Phillips. Some of the extra trees may be planted along the Trout Brook Trail, he said.

“We’ve had so many great partnerships,” he added.

The West Hartford Tree Project planting crew in 2021. Courtesy photo

In the first two years they gave away more than 1,000 bare root seedlings. Eversource has also been a supporter of the West Hartford Tree Project, and has chipped in by donating several hundred small tree and shrub plugs each year.

“Our tree canopy is so important,” said Goerner. Trees increase property values, beautify the overall environment, aid in stormwater runoff, provide diverse wildlife habitat, reduce noise, provide privacy, and even reduce stress, he said.

Goerner said that he and his wife, who teaches biology at Hall High School, have also facilitated two professional development CIT sessions for teachers in town, and the West Hartford Tree Project has also organized several invasive plant removals at local parks.

Goerner also expressed his gratitude for the assistance of Bill Gleason, a retired photographer and publisher who is extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and has been involved in every single activity undertaken by the West Hartford Tree Project. “He is a volunteer tree guide at Elizabeth Park, and he is currently working on a set of Tree Trails for every town park,” Goerner said.

For more information about the West Hartford Tree Project, visit their Facebook page. To donate via Patronicity, click here.

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