Last week, over 25 people in Hartford boarded a bus bound for New Haven to learn about sustainability in the Elm City. The field trip was organized by the New Haven Land Trust, Urban Resources Initiative, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. This was one of many environmentally-themed excursions offered to attendees of the Land Trust Alliance Rally that was held at the Connecticut Convention Center during the course of four days. The people who chose the New Haven trip picked it over a variety of many other compelling options, and they even paid a fee to do it.
Seven of the participants on the tour were part of a special delegation from Chile that traveled to Connecticut to attend the Land Trust Rally and learn about land conservation laws and practices in the United States. Chilean Parliament Members Andrea Molina, Marcela Sabat, and Juan Carlos Latorre accompanied people from The Nature Conservancy Chile Branch Office, Parques Para Chile (Parks for Chile) and Corporación Bosques de Zapallar (Zapallar Forest Corporation). The group said it was important to visit New Haven to see what sustainability and environmental stewardship looked like in an urban setting.
The first stop on the itinerary was Lighhouse Point Park where a tree planting was scheduled. Although the activity was advertised and explained in the description, many of the people seemed surprised at the size of the trees and the actual scope of the project. In just under a three-hour period, five large trees were given a new and permanent home. The two of the trees had root balls with a diameter of over five feet.
If planting trees for the environment’s sake wasn’t enough motivation, nature itself assisted, with temperatures in the low 60’s and a blustery ocean breeze. Upon arrival, people were visibly cold, uncomfortable, and eagerly willing to generate body heat. Everyone was soon shoveling and pick-axing through the rocky earth with vigor.
“I had no idea that we were going plant trees so big” said Victoria Alonzo from the Chile Branch Office of the Nature Conservancy. “We always plant smaller trees”, she stated while simulating with her hands an imaginary tree about two feet tall. “Maybe” she speculated “that’s why many of them don’t survive.”
The next stop was the Yale Sustainable Food Project Farm for a student-led tour by Sam Huber and pizza from the brick oven. The timing seemed perfect because people were hungry after the exertion at the Lighthouse. The hearth oven takes nearly six hours to bring the temperatures up hot enough to cook on, meaning that a student was there at 6:00 a.m. to fire it up to have it ready.
Yale students Ali Abarca and Josh Evans assumed the pizza-maker role and efficiently churned out what appeared to be an endless supply of pizzas made with and equally endless supply of creativity. They crafted each pie with imaginative combinations of just-picked and freshly cut produce from the farm.
After lunch, the destination was Newhalville, where Chris Ozyck of URI led a walking tour of Community Gardens and Greenspace Groups in that section of the City. They began at Ivy Narrows Bird Sanctuary where past Gardener of the Week Jeannette Thomas of Ivy Street talked to the group about the evolution of the site and how much of an impact that it has had in the neighborhood.
To get to the next point of interest on the tour, the Big Farm Community Garden on Starr Street, Ozyck used the Farmington Canal Trail. Midway to the point of departure from the path, he stopped and gave an overview of the trail and the historical significance to the city over time.
At the Big Farm, the group met Robert Wright who talked about growing up on a farm in North Carolina. He moved to New Haven about 20 years ago and for 15 of those years, he has been the leader of the garden. Employing techniques that he learned in his childhood, Wright produces large quantities of vegetables that he freely distributes to his neighbors in a neighborhood that is particularly challenged with nutritious food access and affordability.
Other neighborhood groups that were visited were Beaver Pond Park Greenspace, Bassett Street Community Garden, and Winchester Community Garden.
The tour concluded with a reception in Kroon Hall. Erin Wirpsa Eisenberg of CitySeed provided a rich variety of local foods, wines, cheeses and Connecticut microbrews. Tim Northop of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies gave guided walk-through of Kroon showcasing the latest developments in green building technology.
The people on the field trip returned to the Rally back in Hartford and took with them a great appreciation for what New Haven has done to champion environmentalism in the urban arena.
Chilean Member of Parliament Marcela Sabat, who represents a more urban and developed District in Chile, was particularly impressed with the community gardens and greenspace groups that she saw. “I never realized such a thing was possible in an urban setting” she said through an interpreter “it’s amazing how people come together and their work helps stabilize communities”.
Will the Diplomats’ journey to New Haven inspire similar environmentally -focused community building endeavors in Chile? Only time will tell, but New Haven has already helped by winding the watch.