Ex-offenders helping replant trees in New Haven - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Ex-offenders helping replant trees in New Haven

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Non-profit organizations are helping replant trees in New Haven (WFSB) Non-profit organizations are helping replant trees in New Haven (WFSB)

New Haven might be nicknamed the “Elm City,” but it’s losing its ash trees at an alarming rate.

On Wednesday, an impacted neighborhood got a whole new look, thanks to a program helping ex-offenders fresh out of prison.

"I love it. I love the service I provide to the neighborhoods,” said Donald Williams, who was helping those re-planting their roots in the Elm City on Wednesday.

He served seven years for robbery, but he’s now a supervisor with Urban Resources Initiative’s Green Skills Crew.

Partnering with Emerge, another non-profit that works with those recently released from prison, they are planting trees all across New Haven.

The crews were focusing on Artizan Street on Wednesday, which lost practically its entire tree cover this summer, thanks to the Emerald Ash Borer.

"Artizan, like many streets in New Haven, was planted on both sides of the street with one species, the Ash tree, and unfortunately right now our state is under quarantine for the Emerald Ash Borer, which is an invasive insect that kills the ash tree,” said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, of Urban Resources Initiative.

The organization said of the Elm City’s roughly 800 Ash trees, 50 percent are infected.

On Artizan, only one is left standing, and that’s why crews were planting cherry and lilacs.

"Not only does it create a very barren feeling on the street, it also makes a really hot landscape so all of the households, no longer have shade, the utility bills go up, it's just not a pleasant place to live,” Murphy-Dunning said.

Through the partnership between URI and Emerge, the crew said they're not just improving the neighborhoods, they're also bettering themselves and others who are in a similar situations.

"It’s good, learning some stuff I never knew before. I never saw myself planting trees, learning trees, being able to name a tree from cherries to lindens, it's a great opportunity,” said Herman Gary, of New Haven.

“It’s a beautiful thing. Not only am I helping myself, I'm helping other ex-offenders that are getting released, like a circle of help,” Williams said.

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