BRISTOL — The city of Bristol has received a Connecticut Urban Forest Council grant to replace degraded Memorial Boulevard tennis courts with an “urban garden.”
Sarah Larson, assistant superintendent of the Department of Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services, said the $35,000 grant will plant 21 native trees and 40 shrubs on Memorial Boulevard. Trees, she said, will be planted in late fall and shrubs will be planted in spring, when the city will hold a grand opening. Currently, the city is leveling the ground in the area.
“The Connecticut Urban Forest Council’s mission is to approve tree equity among disenfranchised census tracts,” Larson said. “Bristol has an overall tree equity score of 80, but our lowest-rated area is Memorial Boulevard, which is 20. There are higher levels of elderly, children and minorities in this area who do not have access to trees, and the lack of trees leads to higher temperatures and poorer air quality in this area.
Due to the current lack of trees on Memorial Boulevard, Larson said, temperatures tend to be 6 degrees warmer in that part of town.
The urban garden will also help reduce the “known history of flooding” in the area. The old tennis courts, Larson explained, were a 24,000 square foot area of non-permeable soil that did not allow stormwater to seep into the ground and renew itself before flowing into the Pequabuck River.
“Creating an urban garden will help reduce water in the Pequabuck River,” she said. In addition, the new trees will contribute to increasing the biodiversity of the Memorial Boulevard sector.
“Memorial Boulevard is mostly maple and oak trees,” Larson said. “If there was a plague or a disease, there is a good chance that they would all be affected. These new trees will result in a 200% more sustainable ecosystem.
Larson said the urban garden will align well with other improvement projects in the area, including the renovation of the bridge and the opening of the Bristol Arts and Innovation Magnet School.
Larson added that the city will soon announce three educational sessions involving the urban garden project.
“We will invite the community to come and find out how they can help,” she said. “There will be community planting opportunities and we will also show them how they can improve the urban canopy in their own backyard. We will also encourage them to ask their owners to plant more trees.
Mayor Jeff Caggiano said the project will be a “great reuse of space.”
“The tennis courts had unfortunately not been well planned and had fallen into disrepair,” Caggiano said. “On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Memorial Boulevard, this project will preserve the beauty of the boulevard in keeping with the original intention of Albert Rockwell.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.