The West Hartford Tree Project, now in its fourth year, has launched the crowdfunding portion of the campaign and hopes to earn a Sustainable CT match.
By Ronni Newton
Ted Goerner and his wife, Carolyn, founded the West Hartford Tree Project several years ago, and a fundraising campaign is now underway for the fourth year of the program with the goal of being able to provide more than 1,000 trees and shrubs – free of charge – to any West Hartford resident or business.
As West Hartford Public Schools science teachers, the Goerners are both passionate about the important role of trees in the environment, and turned that passion into action by launching the West Hartford Tree Project, now in its fourth year. Three years ago they were joined by Bill Gleason, and Tom and Rachel Martin and together, the five volunteers comprise the core group within the project.
Last year the fundraising greatly exceeded expectations, and they raised more than $3,000 from 63 donors, which was then matched by Sustainable CT’s Community Match Fund. On Earth Day 2023, mature potted trees as well as barefoot seedlings were distributed – more than 1,000 trees overall given to hundreds of residents.
This year the fundraising goal is $7,500, and if reached by Jan. 6, 2024, the project will be eligible for a matching grant from Sustainable CT’s Community Match Fund.
The higher budget is due to the desire to increase the number of potted trees – some of which cost $15 each – that will be distributed in the spring. The potted trees, which were obtained last year from New England Wetland Plants (NEWP), were very well received and will likely have a higher survival rate thanks to their maturity at planting. The West Hartford Tree Project hopes to be able to distribute 1,000 potted trees in the spring, as well as 700 plugs that are being donated by Eversource.
They will also be distributing Chestnut Oak seedlings from acorns collected locally and grown by West Hartford students, Ted Goerner said.
In the announcement of the campaign, the West Hartford Tree Project noted that “mature trees in our town are coming down at an alarming rate due to old age, climate change, disease, drought, high winds, and cutting. Suburban trees provide many benefits and need to be replaced.”
“This has been a really successful collaboration between a core group of volunteers, Sustainable CT, the Town of West Hartford, Eversource, the North Central Conservation District, dozens of generous donors, and hundreds of residents who are willing to give homes to young trees,” Goerner said. “Our town has lost thousands of trees in the last decade and that affects all of us. Trees provide shade and evaporative cooling, windbreaks, stormwater reduction, beauty, air purification, noise reduction, shelter and sustenance for native wildlife, stress reduction, traffic calming and more. They greatly increase property values and improve our overall quality of life.”
Since the project began, roughly 3,800 trees of 21 different species have been distributed. All trees and shrubs are native, and three new species will be added this year. The medium and large species, purchased from NEWP or the North Central Conservation District, are less than 4 feet tall.
“We’re thrilled to support the West Hartford Tree Project that puts residents at the forefront of creating positive, impactful change,” Lynn Stoddard, executive director for Sustainable CT, said in the announcement. “Like all Match Fund projects, this initiative is community led and community funded, demonstrating the power of people working together to make change where they live.”
In addition to distributing the trees, the West Hartford Tree Project provides education about where and how the trees should be planted. They hold workshops, provide guidance on distribution day, and offer tips on their Facebook page.
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