Put the elms back in Elmwood

I know the town doesn’t have any money. I know people want to spend, well, nothing.

But here’s a program that we can still somehow do together: Put the elms back in Elmwood.

Since Dutch Elm Disease wiped out 100 million American Elm trees during the 20th century, including most of the tree-lined streets in our cities, the trees are hard to find. But that’s changing thanks to disease-resistant varieties that are on the market now.

USA Today, for example, recently had a story about the return of the elm tree. Even Home Depot is selling the new version of the famous old trees.

It’s time that we jump on the bandwagon in this town and start planting trees again, beginning with new elms in Elmwood.

Not long ago, Rick Liftig posted in one thread here that the “Elmwood Business Association will be sponsoring an elm planting program over the next several months. We will be starting with a small project and hope that things will ‘blossom’ from there. Despite the elm tree moniker, the program is meant to be a town-wide (and likely species diverse) effort that will hopefully continue for many years.”

That’s terrific news, which the Courant oddly hasn’t jumped on yet.

But it doesn’t need to be “a small project” that one business group is sponsoring. This should be a townwide initiative that aims in the long run to plant more trees everywhere to make sure West Hartford in 50 or 100 years looks better than it does today, with giant, native trees dotting the landscape.

Perhaps the town could buy elms in bulk and sell them at discounted rates to residents who promise to plant them in West Hartford. Or perhaps a tree tax break is possible somehow. Or maybe we could just get a fund going to buy the trees and give them away in areas that most need more trees. I’m fuzzy on the details, only certain that the idea has merit.

Liftig wrote on a comment on this blog that “informal discussions have shown us that the Town is very interested in pursuing these avenues by partnering with the communities and community organizations.” That means there’s already something afoot. I just hope it’s not stamped under foot by the budget debacle.

Tree planting programs are catching on all over. But let’s be a leader in this and make West Hartford even more green. And let’s start by bringing the elms back to Elmwood.

 Elm-lined street in Washington, DV



Filed under American Elm, elm, elms, Elmwood, Environment, trees

28 responses to “Put the elms back in Elmwood

  1. turtle

    An inspired post. Hear, hear!

  2. Rick Liftig

    A Brief History of the Elm and West Hartford

    “The Liberty Tree (1646–1775) was a famous elm tree that stood in the commons of Boston, Massachusetts Colony, in the days before the American Revolution. The tree was a rallying point for the growing resistance to the rule of England over the American colonies. In the years that followed, almost every American town had its own Liberty Tree—a living symbol of popular support for individual liberty and resistance to tyranny.” (source: Wikipedia)

    In 1775, to celebrate General Wolfe’s victory over British General Burgoyne (at Saratoga), Captain Ebenezer Faxon planted thirteen elm trees at the corner of South Quaker Lane and New Britain Avenue. In the years following the American Revolution, elm trees were planted in linear fashion along New Britain Avenue and Newington Road. The beauty of the streetscape lent the name Elmwood to the Southeast section of town. Many other American towns duplicated this pattern, but sadly, the planting of closely spaced ‘monocultures (a single species of vegetation)’, though beautiful and striking, led to the elm tree’s demise.
    Dutch elm disease wiped out the majority of elm trees in this country during the first half of the twentieth century. The fungus spread rapidly among America’s ubiquitous elm trees. The effects are still evident along formerly beautiful roads that are now devoid of vegetation; the Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield springs immediately to mind. Most roads were never replanted due to the simultaneous increase in automobile numbers, lane widths and liability (resulting from large trees).

    Our logo will depict the famous elm that stood for years in front of the Sarah Whitman Hooker House. This tree survived into the 1930’s and was likely planted by Bristow, a slave to the Hooker family. This elm was planted not only as tribute to the newly-forming nation, but it was a celebration Bristow’s astounding accomplishment of purchasing his freedom from the Hooker family.

    A New Beginning

    With the establishment of an expanded Burgoyne/Blanchfield Park on the corner of New Britain Avenue and South Quaker Lane in 2006, this is an opportune time to bring the the elm back to our community. The Elmwood Business Association is proud to begin the project and will be looking for appropriate sites and partners.
    Certainly, the Park is first on the list. Other appropriate sites for our initial planting are in front of the Hooker House/Szechuan Tokyo Restaurant, the front of Saint Brigid’s church (between the church and Sherwin Williams), the corner of New Britain Avenue and Newington Road (in front of Dr. Clark’s office).

    Several disease resistant elm tree species are now under cultivation, but urban foresters are quick to point out that the closely spaced plantings of the past should not be duplicated. As the program expands, new trees and their planting sites need to be carefully chosen to maximize longevity, safety and beauty.


    A small group will be meeting in the next several weeks to plan for initial plantings in the Fall (Watch for us in the Park Road Parade!)

    After that, expect to see the project go townwide!

  3. Great posts all around.

    I agree with your approach to financing this under- taking through private means. There are enough citizens in town that would be willing to shell out a few bucks to plant a tree. Fifty years ago – it seems – planting trees was regular practice on a quasi-holiday called “Arbor Day” (http://www.arbor-day.net/). I think CT Arbor Day is April 30th. I don’t know if this day is still taught in schools but I think I have seen C-SPAN shows commemorating it. Someone else can probably set the record straight on that for me.

    Another thought is to tap the Elmwood (and area) business to purchase the trees.

    And not to start a issue on this blog with regard to Home Depot. But folks need to be very careful about some of the varieties of plants that they offer. Many are hybrid versions of what they claim to be selling. My own view is that if we were to really go with this undertaking, we should buy the trees from a reputable nursery.

  4. turtle

    For once I agree with the usurper-King!

    (Thanks for that great post, Rick.)

  5. Edith Folta

    Arbor Day Foundation’s website is a great resource — in addition, UConn’s department of Urban Forestry is right here in West Hartford on Asylum Street. Maybe Westmoor Park could participate too, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or other service organizations. I would love to see us undertake a project to re-tree the whole town — we have a lot of maples which are nearing the end of their productive lives, and should be replaced with a variety of species. Arbor Day sponsors a program called Tree City USA (Home Depot is a sponsor), and a number of Connecticut towns have participated. Hey, if Torrington can do it, so can we! A great way to bring folks together for the good of all, and the good of the planet too.

  6. Edith Folta

    PS — the Arbor Day Foundation’s website is:

    and you can find information on Tree City USA at:

    It turns out that Enterprise Rent-a-Car is also a sponsor of replanting programs — and we happen to have a branch right here on Park Road.

  7. Neal

    Perhaps the town can create some sort of special committee to spearhead this thing. It’s a great idea.

  8. TreeMan

    I whole-heartedly agree with all that’s been said here. I can’t wait to plant my first elm.

    But in addition to a re-planting program, I think this Town needs to address the indiscriminate destruction of stately maples and oaks that we see all the time, often for no reason beyond some selfish housewife wanting more light in her living room.

    I once lived in a Town that required a permit before anyone could cut down a tree (public or private) exceeding a specified diameter. This Town truly treasured its trees, considering them an integral part of the Town’s history, ambiance, and overall livability.

    I think the same could be said of West Hartford. And in light of the additional concern I hope we all share regarding global warming, why shouldn’t West Hartford consider a new approach for preserving the stately and historic trees we already have?

  9. Edith Folta

    I had a friend in Elmwood whose neighbor wanted to cut down her trees because it was too much work to rake the leaves in the fall. She was elderly and it was indeed too big a chore for her. If we have a tree program, it should include resources for elderly or infirm to get leaves and fallen branches taken care of on private property. Maybe this is where Scouts or church/synagogue groups or other service organizations could come in?

  10. Peter G.

    This may be true for other schools in West Hartford as well, but Wolcott School has a great program that involves students in helping to maintain the wooded section of Wolcott Park, known as the Wolcott Children’s Forest. I suspect that the teachers and administration there would be receptive to involving the kids in a tree planting program, especially something with such historic and community significance.

    But on the subject of making West Hartford more green . . . has anyone looked at the problem of light pollution in town, or explored ways that the use of unnecessary or poorly designed outdoor lighting can be discouraged (if private) or ended (if public)?

  11. Gary Reger

    To the problem of light pollution may I add noise? I work at home summers and the ambient noise, especially from lawn-care equipment, can be unbelievable.

  12. Kevin Sullivan

    Growing up in Elmwood, I remember the sad end of the elms. This is a great idea. Let’s all get behind it. There is funding out there to help and I, for one, have volunteered to help Rick and others go get it. My Mom still talks about the sing that once stood near the overpass on New Britain Avenue that said. “Watch Elmwood Grow.” Well, despite the worst efforts of a sad few, Elmwood is growing again and growing some hardy elms can only make that commercial center more people-friendly and econ-friendly.

  13. Nice thought Dad … this could be fun for the community. But King is 100% right. Other than to provide some planning and help with permits the town should have nothing to do with it.

    There is a Park Road and New Britain Avenue Business association that would enjoy being part of such a project. A local nursery like Patrissi would probably jump at the change to provide the trees at or below cost in exchange for having residents pick up the trees at his store and have the nursery’s name and address mentioned in the promotion of the project. I bet you could get WDRC-AM and Brad Davis to help.

    All around it’s a good idea.

    However, I don’t see how replacing one native species of tree with another as eco-friendly. It will make people feel good about their community and that should be enough all by itself.

  14. Rick Liftig

    Good Websites

    For anyone interested, here are some good websites to check out:

    http://www.gpip.org/docs/index.html – Glastonbury, CT – Partners in Planting (a community group)

    http://users.aol.com/bcarley978/elmpost.htm – Bruce Carley’s Website (he sells Valley Forge Elms and is located in Acton, MA

    http://www.libertyelm.com – Elm Research institute – Keene NH – sells Liberty Elms

    http://www.canr.uconn.edu/ces/forest/urbnshts.htm – UCONN Dept. of Urban Forestry

    Also, article from USA Today which talks about Home Depot’s Elm strategy:

    And NPR:

  15. Edith Folta

    When will the Elmwood Business Association be discussing this? — I would love to attend the meeting to be of assistance if possible, and talk about widening the plans townwide.

  16. Rick Liftig

    Edith –

    We (the Emwood Business Association) plan to start a small project for this year and develop a framework for a townwide program after that.

    A subset of the business association will be meeting through the summer.

    I’ll let you (and the town) know more aswe flech out our ideas.

  17. Hug a Tree for me

    A framework like Patti Lowry did with the TND that got steamrolled?

  18. Rick Liftig

    Hug a tree –

    Gee – thanks for your good wishes and positive vibes.

    What does this have to do with the TND?

  19. Tree lover in WH

    This is a great idea. Thanks to all who are pushing it forward and to whdad for spreading the word!
    I’m eager to see how this pans out!!

  20. Well this seems to be Dad’s Idea and I believe he should chair the effort and act as a bridge between these groups should feel so compelled.

  21. Squeenter Squillo

    Squeenter just read article about the business association planting these trees, in the WH section. Squeenter want cuddle a tree too!

  22. Rick Liftig



    EBA to Bring Elm Trees Back to Elmwood

    The Elmwood Business Association is coordinating a program to bring the elm tree back to Elmwood. The Elmwood section of West Hartford received its nickname shortly after the Revolutionary War. In 1777, thirteen elms were planted by Captain Ebenezer Faxon to commemorate the Colonial’s victory over British General Burgoyne at Saratoga. The planting site, now a park, is located at the corner of New Britain Avenue and South Quaker Lane. It was recently expanded and landscaped as part of the Quaker Green Condominiums and is slated to be turned over to the town at a later date.

    At a meeting this morning, representatives from the Elmwood Business Association, Mrs. Mauren McClay (West Hartford Town Council), Mr. Dana Hallenbeck (Director of Public Works) and Mr. Richard Mancuso (Ginsburg Development Corporation – Quaker Green Condominiums) agreed on a pilot program to place 3 or 4 moderate-sized trees in the central business district. Ginsburg Development has offered to purchase the trees and will work with the town to plant and maintain them.

    Elm trees were planted widely in the United States during the nineteenth century. They were popular because of their lovely canopy and stately appearance. Many avenues were flanked by uniform rows of the trees. However, the vigorous elm was decimated by Dutch elm disease which swept through the country during the middle of the twentieth century. Since that time, disease resistant varieties have been bred.

    The first trees will be planted in Burgoyne and Beachland Parks sometime in the Fall. The trees will be planted on the site of the original Burgoyne elms. It is anticipated that an elm tree will be showcased in the annual Park Road Parade and that a dedication ceremony in Burgoyne/Blanchfield Park will be held shortly after that event.

    After this year’s pilot program, it is anticipated that a town-wide elm tree education and planting program will be initiated.

    The Elmwood Business Association has been active since the year 2000. We provide service to the community and act as a liaison between the businesses and the town. In the past, the Elmwood Business Association has sponsored the Elmwood Day in May Celebration, placed and maintained holiday decorations in the business district and provided the flags that line New Britain Avenue during the year. The association meets on the first Friday of the month (8:30 am) at “The Corner Pug”.

    If you would like more information about this exciting proect, please contact Dr. Rick Liftig (President of the Elmwood Business Association) at w. 232-8466 or h. 561-9825. E-mail: srick@snet.net.

  23. Joe Visconti

    Hey Rick

    Sounds exciting, what’s the cost to the developer and the town?Where is Ginsburg buying the tree’s? Where does the Town buy their tree’s when needed? Is there contracted maintenance for the trees in the early stage, what’s the cost to water the trees in the early years?

  24. Rick Liftig

    I am letting Public Works and Ginsburg work out the details, but the short version is that Ginsburg will be picking up the tab for the trees and providing maintenance on the Burgoyne tree (s). They will also be purchasing the trees.

    One or two will be in Burgoyne. One will be placed in Beachland Park adjacent to the soccer field and we hope to place one at St. Brigid Church between the church and Sherwin Williams.

    Maintenance and nurturing are a very important aspects to establishing each tree. The actual cost of the trees is low (about $500-$750 for a moderate sized sapling). Preparation of the site (and the accompanying hole) is a big expense, but Ginsburg has the heavy equipment designed for this (as does the town).

    Each site needs careful evaluation so that a mature 60 foot tree (with a 40-60 foot canopy) and equal sized root ball can be accomodated (and safe from threats like the DOT and drunk drivers).

    The Burgoyne site is irrigated – no problem there. The Beachland site is in close proximity to the pond and the brook so likely no problem there. The St. B. site details remain to be worked out. Each tree will be fitted with a watering tube that can be used to supplement feeding and watering in case of drought.

    I think I can safely say that the trees will have virtually no impact on the town budget. GDC is a very impressive company. They have an active charitable arm and they retain control of their grounds even after the condo association takes over to insure that the appearance is maintained. They eagerly stepped up to the plate on this idea and were very open for providing future funds, expertise and trees.

    This is a great example of how the town, its residents and businesses can work togther to enhance their community.

  25. Absolutely superb news, Rick. Thank you and everyone involved for a truly great thing for our town!

  26. Well, it is ok. Do you have more photos of your equipments.. i have visited the site komatpillar.com it sells a lot of used machineries and heavy equipment. Iam still searching on the internet who sells machineries with the Caterpillar brand.

  27. Hello from your neighbors in Wethersfield,

    Our blog is right up your alley. We are trying to get trees planted in Wethersfield, to replace ones that came down due to storm damage, pests, town construction, etc.

    Check it out!


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