4 “Urban Oases” Created In City Parks

Contributed Photos

Common Ground High School sent in these photos and the following write-up about the creation of urban wildlife refuges in New Haven, announced at an event Friday morning featuring kids, environmentalists, politicians and the United States Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS).

Lawmakers and community partners gathered at Beaver Ponds Park this morning to mark the creation of four “habitat oases” demonstration at four New Haven Parks: Beaver Ponds, West River Memorial, East Shore and Dover Beach.

The effort is part of USFWS’s New Haven Harbor Watershed Urban Wildlife Refuge “Urban Oases” Partnership, designated on October 30, 2013 in the City by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. The program is one of only eight such urban wildlife refuge partnerships in the nation created to forge connections between the National Wildlife Refuge System, natural resource conservation and urban communities. The program is bringing “wild” to urban parks, schools and neighborhoods across New Haven.

The Partners are working to create a network of wildlife-friendly habitat oases and habitat improvements in municipal parks, schoolyards, vacant lots, front yards, and units of Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge while providing high quality educational experiences for children and youth. The goal is to create a more beautiful and livable City for New Haven residents, provide high quality educational experiences that connect children to nature and create a matrix of bird-friendly habitats to enhance biodiversity, improve water quality in Long Island Sound and increase habitat connectivity across the city.

“This unique partnership—one of only eight in the country – is a successful, creative collaborative effort of neighborhoods, schools, advocates, city leaders and federal partners, and all involved deserve to be commended.  With eighty percent of Americans living in cities today, preserving the beautiful pockets of natural habitats in our urban environments is as important as ever,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“A quote from John James Audubon says it best: ‘A true conservationist is someone who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children,’” said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. “Because of the Urban Oases Partnership when today’s children grow older and have their own families, they will have still opportunities to enjoy their natural surroundings and to experience the beauty of wildlife, right here in New Haven. Congratulations to all the members of this Partnership for creating a network of park, backyard and school oases and for restoring some wild in the middle of our city.”

“In the face of continuous pressure to convert remaining open space for other uses, it grows more urgent for each of us to do our part locally and preserve native ecosystem to every extent possible,” New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp said. “With that in mind I’m grateful to Audubon Connecticut and its partners – in the private sector, the non-profit sector, and at all levels of government – for bringing these urban oases to life in New Haven, helping our town do its part to keep a natural environment accessible to city residents.”

“National wildlife refuges are the best of America’s wild places, but many are not near major metropolitan areas. Most Americans have grown up without a real connection to the outdoors and wildlife, and the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative gives us a chance to change that. We believe these unique urban partnerships can inspire the imagination and create a connected conservation constituency of people who are aware, understand and support fish and wildlife conservation,” said Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“EPA is pleased to partner once again with the Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Connecticut in creating healthier urban habitats that will contribute to a cleaner Long Island Sound. The New Haven Harbor Urban Refuge Partnership will strengthen community stewardship of the land and water and develop the environmental leaders of tomorrow,” said Mark Tedesco, Director, EPA Long Island Sound Office.

Rebecca Bombero, director, New Haven Parks, Recreation and Trees, said: “It is important to connect people with the natural environment.  The City of New Haven Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees is pleased to work in partnership with such a range of organizations to restore, preserve and rejuvenate our beautiful park system and our urban canopy and to encourage residents to explore our parks to discover these Urban Oases.”

“It is amazing to witness the 21st century conservation work that’s being accomplished in New Haven by Audubon Connecticut and the dedicated partners, community volunteers, and students that are part of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. Together, we have created a network of Urban Oases in parks, schools and yards that provide quality habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, while providing the community with places where people can access and connect with nature in meaningful ways,” said Stewart Hudson, Executive Director of Audubon Connecticut and Vice President of National Audubon Society.

David Skelly, PhD, Director, Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University, Professor of Ecology, at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies said: “The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is proud to be a partner in the Urban Oases Initiative in New Haven. These habitat patches are critical resources for insects, birds and other wildlife that are so important to understand and protect. Their location within landscapes where we live and work offer all of us an opportunity to appreciate the value of nature while providing an inspiring example of what can be accomplished on an even modest footprint.”

Colleen Murphy-Dunning, Director, Yale Urban Resources Initiative said: “We are thrilled to see this park designated as an urban refuge.  Formerly this site was overgrown with invasive plants, but it can now serve as habitat for critical bird species.  The transformation of the landscape is a reflection of the commitment by incredible partners to create special places for both people and wildlife.  This remarkable change would not have been possible without the contributions made by each partner, but the volunteers from the surrounding neighborhoods play a particularly important role as they will sustain these improvements over time.”

Melissa Spear, Executive Director, Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center said: “This new urban refuge is an incredibly powerful investment in a healthier, more sustainable, better educated New Haven. We are proud to see our high school students working side by side community members to restore habitat, to help New Haven public schools turn their school grounds into rich outdoor classrooms, and to build our own campus into an oasis for people and wildlife. We are building a national model here in our city, and we could not do it without such strong partners.”

Nan Bartow, President, Friends of Beaver Ponds Park said: “Speaking for the Friends of Beaver Ponds Park, we are delighted with the assistance that we have received from our partners, particularly the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon Connecticut, Urban Resources Initiative, New Haven Parks Department, Peabody Museum, and students from Hillhouse High School and Common Ground High School, in our efforts to clean and restore the waters and the woodlands in Beaver Ponds Park.  We have appreciated the financial support from US Fish and Wildlife and Audubon Connecticut for the purchase of new trees, bushes, and perennials that will provide food and shelter as an urban refuge for birds as they migrate year after year through our area.  Our new partnerships have also helped bring us many young people who are participating in these efforts and who are seeing firsthand the results of the improvements to the land that benefit both people and wildlife.  We are proud to know that the youth who are working with us now are the future leaders and guardians of the water and land which are important resources for our community and our nation.”

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