Grant promotes urban forestry awareness

DEEP-URI-FES-City-of-NH

A recent grant from Connecticut should make New Haven a little greener.

The Urban Resources Initiative (URI), a non-profit partner of the Yale School for Forestry and Environmental Studies, received a $30,000 award earlier this month from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to create bilingual environmental education tools and to improve community outreach for its urban forestry programs. The grant will help URI engage more people with in the natural landscapes around them, said URI Director Colleen Murphy-Dunning.

“We have 1,000 volunteers, but there are almost 130,000 people in New Haven, [so] there 129,000 people who we are not reaching,” Murphy-Dunning said. “How do we get people to care about nature? How do we get them to see that it’s relevant to their everyday life? That’s why need to develop these tools.”

The DEEP selected URI for the grant because URI’s initiatives align with Connecticut’s forestry goals, which include maintaining healthy green spaces and practicing sustainable forestry, said Chris Martin, the Director of Forestry at DEEP. Martin said the state makes a particular effort to connect with programs in New Haven.

Murphy-Dunning said the grant will bolster participation in Green Spaces, one of URI’s flagship programs. In Green Spaces, community volunteer groups approach URI with a project proposal, ranging from street tree planting and park improvement projects to recovering vacant lots. URI provides the technical and material resources for these projects and an intern to supervise the project. The grant will attempt to increase the visibility of the Green Spaces program, and Murphy-Dunning said URI is exploring using a range of platforms including social media or more tradition methods.

In addition to increasing the visibility of Green Spaces, the grant will allow URI to create additional Spanish language resources. Since New Haven has a significant Spanish-speaking population, creating such resources is integral to URI’s outreach efforts, Murphy-Dunning said. Previously, URI created a printed guide of the street tree species in New Haven, which is essential to tree planting projects. To reach more residents, URI translated the book into Spanish, which allowed more people to participate in community projects, Murphy-Dunning said.

“If you put 20 logos in front of kids, they would recognize the golden arches and the Nike swoop,” Murphy-Dunning said. “But would they recognize a red maple leaf? Would they recognize oak? Do we have a vocabulary for the nature that surrounds us? Finding engaging ways for people to care about the landscapes that they’re part of, to realize they’re part of the ecosystem — that’s the big goal.”

URI’s programs help New Haven residents develop a sense of ownership of their natural landscapes, said URI intern Bailey Johansen FES ’14. For example, the URI Green Jobs program employs high school students to plant trees around the city. In greening their community spaces, students gain an appreciation for a range of environmental issues, Johansen said.

The new commissioner of DEEP Robert Klee FES ’99 LAW ’04 GRD ’05, visited F&ES with New Haven Mayor Toni Harp to present the award to Murphy-Dunning and Dean Peter Crane.

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