Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Busy Day for Yalies

3,500 Yalies the world over rolled up their sleeves and got to work on May 14 for the 3rd annual Global Day of Service, sponsored by the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA). Some of them even got down and dirty with projects ranging from park clean-ups to tutoring at over 200 sites.

Me and a Gingko tree planted in ’10
The Day of Service began as a small pilot program with the Yale Club of New Haven (YCNH) in 2008. This year Chris Coffin, YCNH vice-president and Club Day of Service Coordinator for New Haven since the start, arranged activities for 17 sites around the city at which over 250 alums, employees, and friends volunteered. For each of the four years one of the New Haven sites has been designated for a tree planting project facilitated by Urban Resources Initiative (URI). URI has contracted with the City of New Haven to plant 10,000 trees in 5 years through a program called Tree Haven 10K: volunteer efforts in Middletown Avenue Park that Saturday brought the City six trees closer to the goal. 

Look closely, and you will see a nest.
After having the opportunity to plant a tree on State Street last year, I was hooked on this particular service project. I have a strong connection to  “my” Gingko bilboa and often take the opportunity to check up on it. On a recent walk-by I discovered that it held a nest in its branches, just above eye level, on one of New Haven’s busiest streets. 

Chris Ozyck, URI’s Greenspace manager, was (as always) at the URI Day of Service site to supervise the summer interns as they led the volunteers in their planting efforts. Chris knows what it takes for a tree to thrive, and he has very high standards. Planting a tree correctly takes a number of steps and some hard labor. But it is well worth the effort. If done correctly, the tree usually grows, actually appreciating in value over the years. How many other completed projects share that trait? Check out this recent article in the New Haven Independent for more on Chris and on the dos and don’ts of tree planting. 

Note that the trunk flare is exposed on this tree.
But back to the Middletown Avenue Park. We had three teams of volunteers that day, each led by a URI summer intern; mine was Amy Zvonar, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ’12. Each team started out by planting a Sunset Red Maple. We de-turfed, dug the hole just to the depth of the trunk flare, threw the grass in upside down, mixed compost with the dirt we had excavated, placed the tree in the center of the hole, added back dirt/compost (not covering the trunk flare), made a donut to create a reservoir for watering, covered the donut with mulch, and watered with BioPak. Whew! But still, not too bad — much easier than the compacted dirt in the State Street tree wells last year. 

Me, Eric Berger, and Amy adding mulch to the donut.
Photo by Michael Marsland/Yale University.
After a brief rest we moved on to the next trees — my team and another planted Dawn Redwoods, the third team a Tulip Tree.

A Redwood — How exciting! Then I saw the challenging planting site — in the center of an overgrown patch of mugwort (believed by some to have magical properties). Magic didn’t play a role in the mugwort removal: this task required me to wield a pickaxe! Once the mugwort was cleared, the rest was pretty easy, a familiar drill by now. [I confess I let someone else fetch the compost.]

Two new Redwoods in a sea of invasive mugwort at the
Middletown Avenue Park's Quinnipiac Avenue border.

I checked back on Saturday to see how “my” trees and the others were doing. They looked great, although the mugwort was kind of high. I’ll let the Parks Department take care of that… 

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