Some Favorite Sites
Government/ Community Links
Bus Tour “Reveals” Flourishing Community Gardens
by David Sepulveda | Oct 9, 2013 12:20 pm
Posted to: Neighborhoods, Newhallville, Quinnipiac River Village, The Heights, Westville
A sparkling white coach bus from New Haven Land Trust’s “Habitat, Harvest, and Happy Hour Benefit Bus Tour” ambled down Newhallville streets. At the head of the bus, Stacy Spell, a former New Haven homicide detective with microphone in hand, described how some of the streets and corners were once breeding grounds for crime, consumed in drugs and violence.
The occasion was a Sunday evening tour of the bounty sprouting from streets like those all over town thanks to grassroots work supported by the Land Trust, a not-for-profit organization that “promotes the appreciation and preservation of natural resources in New Haven for the benefit and education of the community.” The Trust has a Land Conservation Program of almost 80 acres, a community gardening program of 50 garden sites that are leased from the city, and an educational program addressing environmental, nature, land and gardening concerns.
The busload of around 50 urban tourists originated at Westville’s Stone Hearth Restaurant. Riders listened to Spell, now president of the West River Neighborhood Association and a Land Trust board member, describe how community gardens have become gathering places, oases of peace, hope, and good nutrition for Newhallville neighbors. The gardens’ bounty is distributed through informal channels providing an array of healthful vegetables, often augmenting the grocery lists of those with strained budgets and limited options.
Newhallvillle’s two Starr Street gardens were the first stop on what would be a truncated tour, owing to darkening skies and periodic rain. At each planned stop, the tour was greeted by local volunteer-managers who described their work and respective missions.
Starr Street’s community gardens, along with other 49 additional gardens throughout New Haven, are underwritten by the Trust, which provides topsoil, compost, wood chips (mulch), seeds and young plants according to Rachel Ziesk, the Land Trust’s part-time certified master gardener. She provides guidance and expertise to gardeners.
Providing the tour with historic information and updates about some of the sites managed by the Land Trust was its president, John Richard Logan. Logan talked about some of the sites the tour would not be visiting, like the Long Wharf Nature Preserve and the Pond Lily Preserve at the junction of Routes 63 and 69 near Woodbridge. The site once housed a mill dating back to the eighteenth century. A dam presently located there will be partially removed and a fish ladder designed for spawning river herring (or alewife) relocated. Despite ambitious plans to restore the natural habitat, the project remains stalled due to a lack of money.
Tour stops included the Quinnipiac Meadows/Eugene B. Fargeorge Preserve, a 35-acre site of tidal wetlands, coastal forests and grasslands on the Quinnipiac River. The preserve offers two looping trails with trail maps located at the site, a bird blind and views of the salt marsh and river. Site manager Stewart Hutchings, who describes himself as a land “steward,” gave a short talk noting the abundance of wildlife at the site. “About the only creatures I have not seen here are bears,” he said. For a listing of all New Haven Land Trust Preserves and additional information, click here:
Between tour destinations, Land Trust personnel regaled the tour group with trivia questions such as: “What is the name for a highly productive part of the river where fresh and salt water meet?” If you were the first to answer “estuary,” you would have taken home one of the many prizes ranging from miniature garden gnomes to some freshly-picked veggies from one of the community gardens.
At a tour of “Garden in the Park,” a vegetable and butterfly garden located in Fairmont Park in Fair Haven Heights, the tour was met by coordinator and community garden pioneer Sylvia Dorsey. With volunteer Leslie Crescenzi, Dorsey had prepared a tasty spread of Shiso tea, raspberry and mint herb water, herb crackers and eggplant dip.
Another feast awaited the group back at the tour’s final destination, Westville’s Stone Hearth Restaurant, which hosted a cocktail party and celebration featuring fresh seasonal appetizers, including some made with produce from Land Trust gardens.
The evening’s agenda included a presentation of the New Haven Land Trust’s Environmental Business Award to outdoor outfitters Trailblazer, for the locally owned store’s “longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the environment, including its support of osprey nesting platforms at the Land Trust preserves.”
Many of New Haven’s incredible natural resources, that in some cases seem hidden in plain sight, owe their existence to the stewardship of New Haven Land Trust. Present and future generations are the beneficiaries of this organizations work; the “Habitat, Harvest and Happy Hour Benefit and Bus Tour” was another opportunity to celebrate and educate.
Post a Comment
From “breeding grounds for crime, consumed in drugs and violence,” to community gardens and educational forums promoting the preservation of natural resources? Sure sounds like a move in the right direction to me. The New Haven community should definitely continue to support the Land Trust organization’s efforts to provide “peace, hope, and good nutrition” and should ensure that funding is provided as needed.
posted by: Semi Semi-Dikoko on October 10, 2013 11:07am
This is truly a great testament to one of one of New Haven finest organization. In fact the impact that the New Haven Land Trust have had in our communities is hard to measure. After all, the ancillary benefits of the work they’ve done over time, are not limited to crime reduction, but in fact, extend to tenets of environmental justice and access to local healthy food. As we get more people aware of the bountiful benefits of land stewardship, the health benefits, (physiologically), of being out there in the garden or in the park dovetail nicely with much needed constructive use that we must be getting out of our open spaces. So that the upcoming generation will grow into environmental savvy adults who will see to it that the city and the world are better place to live a happy, healthy and well balanced life.
Great mission, great event J.R. Logan, Stacy Spell, Rachel Ziesk, Catherine Bradshaw, (who succeeded Chris Randall), the board members and the many volunteers, and truly a great reportage David Sepulveda!
The New Haven land trust is doing really important work- that I was totally unaware of before reading this article. Preserving New Haven’s natural resources, supporting the wonderful community gardens, and raising community awareness—-awesome! And I love the pics—especially the “urban gardeners”!
posted by: J.R. Logan on October 10, 2013 7:11pm
As Chairman of the New Haven Land Trust board I was really pleased that we were able to get people’s feet into our gardens and preserves. When looking to develop advocates nothing beats giving people a real experience. The bus tour really was a good alternative to the typical fundraising dinner we may have otherwise held at this time. It was particularly gratifying to share the experience with people who told me they otherwise would not have visited those locations. I was also happy that the NH Independent choose write this great story because it amplifies our ability to recruit volunteers.
The organization is light in our paid staffing (two part time staff, one Public Ally) but I am always amazed at how many people make serious volunteer commitments to the organization. When you consider, preserve stewarts, people who pick up the trails, garden coordinators, all the committee members and the board - the organization relies on the work of hundreds of people in New Haven.
If you have time this weekend we really could use some help removing invasive plants at our Quinnipiac Meadows Preserve. Details at: https://www.facebook.com/NewHavenLandTrust/events
PS- I love the picture of Stacy and the gardeners with the produce.
posted by: J.R. Logan on October 10, 2013 7:29pm
Just for fun I wanted to share a few of the quiz questions that I asked participants.
Answers are written backwards.
Q: What does “Quinnipiac” mean?
A: ”dnaL retaW gnoL“ snaem caipinniuQ drow ehT
Q Is squash at fruit?
A: sdees sniatnoc dna netae eb nac ti ,seY
Q: Which Land Trust preserve has a bird blind for bird watchers.
A: swodaeM caipinniuQ
Q: What is the name of the common tall reed grass that is invasive and has taken the place move many natural grasses and cattails.
Q: What is the name of the New Haven island where Native Americans were known fish and conduct ceremonies. The site of past archaeological study.
A: dnalsI sinnarG
Q: What is the process of change by which on community of plants replace another and changing the habitat.
Q: At it’s greatest length how many longer wharfs existed in the country than New Haven’s Long Wharf
A: orez ro enon
What is the term for communities that have no or distant grocery stores, or have an imbalance of healthy food options.
A: treseD dooF
(if you need help decoding the answers you can always use http://backwardstext.com/)
posted by: New Haven LandTrust on October 11, 2013 1:17pm