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New London Trees starts fundraiser for new plantings in the city

New London — A 1993 inventory of trees conducted by Connecticut College students documented 2,900 trees representing 55 species in the city.

By 2018, that number had fallen to 1,887, a precipitous drop that helped inspire a grassroots movement and formation of New London Trees. The nonprofit group’s core mission is to restore some of the shade canopy of the city’s bygone era of tree-lined streets through community plantings and care, education and advocacy.

The group launched a fundraiser this month, hoping to raise $5,000 by spring and take advantage of matching funds provided through Sustainable CT. The campaign, at www.patronicity.com/project/new_london_trees, went live on Dec. 15 and will be accepting donation through Feb. 15.

New London Trees President Maggie Redfern said the money will allow for the purchase of about 30 trees. It’s just a start, she said, since trees are disappearing from the city at an alarming rate because in many cases they either stand in the way of development, pavement, sidewalks or power lines.

Some trees have been lost because of poor maintenance, disease and insects. Two towering ash trees recently were removed from Williams Park because they were infested with emerald ash borers, a particularly nasty beetle credited with destroying tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada. New London Trees secured two replacement trees, a sugar maple and an American basswood, which were planted but will take 100 years to grow as large as the ash trees.

The group has staked out several sites for the tree plantings when it reaches its fundraising goal: Greens Harbor Park, the parklet outside Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and a new planting strip on Ashcraft Road.

Redfern, who is the assistant director of the Connecticut College Arboretum, said New London Trees has offered some criticism to the city but also sees it as a partner, along with the arboretum.

The city’s Public Works Department is helping to plant the trees chosen and purchased by the group, most notably a strip of nine trees along Governor Winthrop Boulevard last year.

New London Trees, with help from the city, also has completed tree plantings at Mahan Park, Neptune Court and Vauxhall Street and managed to save two large London plane trees at the corner of Montauk Avenue and Plant Street that were slated for removal during a sidewalk rehabilitation project.

Redfern credited Mayor Michael Passero for backing New London Trees initiatives.

Not only do trees add beauty and improve air quality, Redfern said, they can reduce energy costs, soil erosion, noise pollution and water runoff. She also sees opportunity for advocacy with several large construction projects underway in the city, including a Bank Street residential development and the high school reconstruction project.

“People are starting to understand the importance of native plants and native trees,” she said.

New London Trees typically meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. at the Public Library of New London but, because of the pandemic, has been holding virtual meetings via Zoom. For more information or to learn how to join the group, visit www.NewLondonTrees.org or email NewLondonTrees@gmail.com.

g.smith@theday.com

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