BRIDGEPORT, CT (December 19, 2012) – With help from Groundwork Bridgeport volunteers, Mayor Bill Finch today pitched the last few shovelfuls of dirt around the base of the 2,441st tree planted in the City since announcing his goal to plant 2,012 trees in 2012. The tree, a 10-12-foot American elm was planted at the entrance to Beardsley Park.

To accomplish this feat, the City this fall planted 764 trees through the combined efforts of Groundwork Bridgeport, a local non-profit organization specializing in environmental projects, stewardship and education and job training for high school students, Northeast Horticultural Services, a local arborist company and woman-owned business based in Stratford, and the Parks and Recreation Department Maintenance division.

“Trees provide oxygen, shade, absorb carbon dioxide and are a necessity to helping us make Bridgeport the cleanest and greenest City in the region,” said Mayor Finch. “We’re very proud to have reached our goal of planting 2,012 trees by the end of 2012. I’m very thankful for the efforts of all those who worked very hard to achieve this goal.”

Groundwork Bridgeport planted the largest number of trees as part of their fall effort. Bridgeport high school students from Harding, Bassick and Central worked hard to establish evergreen seedling areas in Veteran’s Memorial Park and Beardsley Park.

The City kicked off its urban forestry initiatives in 2008 with a Citizens’ Arbor Day Tree Planting Campaign funded through an America the Beautiful grant administered through Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and provided by the United States Forest Service. In 2010, the City initiated a tree planting program for low to moderate income neighborhoods which was funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant programs as well as the City. The tree planting program was expanded to include an “Adopt-A-Tree” Program offered to residents to plant trees as part of Mayor Finch’s BGreen 2020 Sustainability Plan for the City of Bridgeport.

By engaging City residents, community-based nonprofit organizations and with the dedication to citywide beautification efforts by Mayor Finch, the City Council and the Public Facilities and Parks Department and Bridgeport’s Urban Forestry programs, the Park City gained recognition as a “Tree City USA” for the fourth straight year and is expected to continue recognition for 2012.

The City’s tree planting efforts have also allowed for replacement of trees that were damaged by a Nor’easter and a tornado that hit the City in 2010, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Super Storm Sandy in November.

“The City’s Master Plan of Conservation and Development established a goal to plant 3,000 trees by 2020,” said City Tree Warden Steve Hladun. “We are well on our way to meeting that goal, and we plan to continue planting the ‘right tree in the right place’ to enhance our urban tree canopy.”

The City has recently completed an urban tree canopy assessment with the University of Vermont through funding provided by DEEP and the United States Forest Service that will help assist the City to make strategic decisions about which trees to plant in various neighborhoods. The Urban Tree Canopy Assessment is also designed to inform and promote the need for a healthy urban forest, better stormwater management, the ‘right tree in the right place’ campaign, and the benefits of the City’s tree planting initiative in residents’ neighborhoods.