New Haven Urban Resources Initiative (URI) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1991 and affiliated with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES). Our purpose has always been to engage the community of all ages, backgrounds, and income to understand and take responsibility for their environment. We began in 1991 with k-12 school environmental education programs, grew in 1995 with community greening programs, and expanded in 2007 with GreenSkills, our green jobs program planting all of the public trees for the City of New Haven.
URI’s top five accomplishments of the past year:
We hope to meet these goals again next year and expand the impact of our projects, to support again another 1,000 Greenspace volunteers, to plant another 6-700 trees, to train more teens and men in our GreenSkills program, to strengthen our partnerships making parts of our city an attractive oasis for migratory birds and pollinators and our city more resilient in the face of climate change and the increasing frequency and strength of storms.
As a small non-profit organization with 3 full-time and 2 part-time staff we know to be successful we must leverage resources through partnerships. More fundamental is our vision that citizen activists cannot successfully manage the landscape alone – we must do so in concert with government, who has the public mandate to manage public land.
The Greenspace program achieves certain goals of the City’s administration including strengthening neighborhoods, curbing blight, planting street trees, supporting park “friends” groups, and fostering a stronger future for New Haven’s environment. Greenspace helps communities take a larger stake in their neighborhoods by encouraging groups to improve their surrounding landscapes through tackling issues such as litter, graffiti, tree trimming, and traffic flows.
Each year plants are evaluated approximately one year after the planting to record survival and condition. This survival monitoring is conducted with a new Community Forestry intern and members of the community that did the planting the year before. A map of the planting and a corresponding monitoring worksheet assist in tracking the correct number planted and survived. This monitoring also assists both community members and interns in learning plant identification. The exercise is not viewed as a critique of groups’ planting abilities but rather as an opportunity for good discussion on the causes of plant death and how to improve conditions for plant survival in the group’s future plantings.
Every year we have a high survival rate for street trees (95% or above). In 2009 we did not lose any more than one tree per species and most species have 100% survival rates. The list shows a high level of variety (42 species) with only cherries as an overused species. The reason for using a lot of cherries is driven by community desire, often to replicate the look of one of New Haven’s most beautiful tree oriented parks, Wooster Square.
Number of Individuals volunteered: 54
Volunteer hours: 255
Number of Community Events: 12
Number of trees planted: 14
Number of shrubs planted: 7
Species Breakdown: 70
Number of Perennials planted: 68+ 2 flats of euonymus
Other: 4.5 yards of mulch, 1 yard topsoil, 26 tree stakes
The Atwater & Pine Greenspace group has been part of URI’s Greenspace program for ten years. Work in this community began with the transformation of a vacant lot into a shaded greenspace on Pine St., and has grown to include streetscape and frontyard beautification along Atwater and Pine Streets. The core members of the group are committed neighbors who come together through their work in the Greenspace program as well as the neighborhood block watch. Last summer (2009) the group dedicated themselves to restoring a treeless stretch of Pine St. that connects the community to the downtown via Bright St. and Ferry St. This summer the group focused on Atwater Street and planted 14 trees on their block, 12 in the curbstrip and 2 in frontyards. They transformed their block into a beautiful streetscape, tearing up large segments of concrete to plant 4 of their trees. The plantings include both shade trees and understory species, and were selected to diversify the types of trees on the block and complement the existing trees. One frontyard was tested for lead and found levels above 5000 ppm in the zone nearest the home. To keep children from playing in the high lead zone, this yard was replanted with shrubs lined up along the home, a purple leaf plum in the center of the yard, perennials around the tree and myrtle surrounding it all. A large number of households, young kids included, contributed to the successful fulfillment of this summer’s planting goals. Several new volunteers joined the group this year and became dedicated group members.
Our GreenSkills program creates an opportunity to solve two of New Haven’s pressing needs: the decline in street tree canopy across the city with more trees removed than planted, and the underemployment of teenage youth and exoffenders.
GreenSkills is a career development program. The program utilizes hands-on training delivered by URI staff and Yale graduate student interns. The Yale students serve as mentors to inner city high school teens on weekends and during the week they work alongside adult men who wish to learn job skills in urban forestry. We partner with the Sound School and Common Ground who select the teens each year. We partner with Empower, Crossroads, and STRIVE who select the men we work with each year.
Since the GreenSkills program’s inception, 1066 trees have been planted on public land in New Haven. Each tree planted is in response to a request from a citizen who in return promises to water and care for the newly planted tree. Thus, each tree represents greater environmental stewardship in the community. And, over 100 high school interns have gained leadership and job skills, and a greater understanding of their environment. The interns have learned to professionally plant trees; identify tree species; use GPS technology to inventory trees; work as a positive member of a team; expand leadership abilities; increase their ecological knowledge; and develop a stewardship ethic for the land.
The GreenSkills program is implemented in close cooperation with the City of New Haven. Over the next 5 years, through the GreenSkills program, URI interns will plant 5,000 trees on the public land in New Haven. In addition to the long term ecological impact of the increased canopy cover, all of the participating interns gain technical training and job skills that better prepare them for the future employment opportunities.
URI has monitored and increased New Haven’s street tree canopy by engaging urban high school and recently released ex-offenders in inventory and planting efforts. Over 100 high school interns and 24 adult apprentices have participated.
Examples of student’s responses in reflection sessions:
I’ve gained “the confidence to achieve the task I’m assigned to. I’ve learned my actions affect my teammates, and that they depend on me to help get the task or goal done. I have to do my part, to work hard, and to back up my team as a good leader.”
Another stated that he learned a core skill he could teach others and learned that you could feel pride for the city you live in by putting in time to make it a better place.”
Crew leaders noted a student’s progress over the course of his internship. “He grew from a helper to an adept tree planter capable of guiding others. He also displayed important self-awareness, acknowledging his weaknesses and making adjustments to improve his work.”
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
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Greater New Haven’s vibrancy is linked to its communities’ support of its neighborhoods, public gardens and sports, as well as its commitment to the protection of its people and pets.
Stewardship of our natural resources is essential if we wish to guarantee that present and future generations enjoy clean water, good air quality and open spaces. When you support organizations that protect the environment you address immediate need today while ensuring a greener tomorrow.
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