Milford Trees, Inc.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Milford's Downtown Trees: A Walking Tour

Because trees are important to Milford residents, it made sense to Mary Ludwig to pick up on Steve Kraffmiller’s suggestion to develop tree walks in the downtown area. Steve, who sits on the Mayor’s task force on enhancing outdoor experiences in Milford (PED), and Mary, President, Milford Trees, Inc (MTI) and a Tree Commissioner, were uncertain where the project would lead but as ideas were exchanged, the tree walk project took on a life of its own. Two walks were designed and introduced earlier this month as part of the PED initiative. They were so well received that a series of tree walks are now in planning for throughout the City.

Further motivation for the tree walks’ creation came as an invitation from the Milford Garden Club to MTI to create an educational display for their September Flower Show. As a result of the interest expressed at the Show in the walks concept, Ludwig was requested to exhibit the display at the Connecticut Urban Forest Council’s (CUFC) Conference “Cultivating Diversity” at Mountainside Inn in Wallingford at the end of October.

Ludwig and Kraffmiller, worked with John Hangen, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Milford’s Management Information Systems (MIS) department, to plan two walks, a short (2 miles) and a long (3 miles), that included interesting trees that were characterized during the 2 ½ year, volunteer-based tree inventory completed in 2003.

One of the trees noted on both walks is a Connecticut State Champion English elm that is located right in the heart of downtown Milford in the front yard of the Chamber of Commerce. Some of the other notable trees in the self guided walks have State ranking such as the Cucumber magnolia (3rd in CT) in Harborside School’s lawn area on High St. and the Sassafras (5th in CT) on Gunn St. This group of Sassafras trees was planted by August Kozlowski, father of retired Mayor, Ed Kozlowski. Other trees were chosen because of their species, beauty, location or because they were Memorial Trees.

Knowing that each tree tells its own unique story and these stories give the community a sense of time and place, Ludwig photographed the 30 trees included in the walks. With help from Kraffmiller and Hangen, she assigned each tree an identifying number and developed maps for the tour. The displays of the routes used at the Flower Show were enhanced with leaves from many of the actual trees along the walks.

Mary’s work involves the use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) software that MIS uses to create information layers of Milford’s various City infrastructure systems and features in a map environment. Think of it as a form of tic tac toe where everything is visualized so that choices and decisions can be made with full appreciation of the surroundings. Because of the volunteers’ tree inventory, the City of Milford now has a GIS layer dedicated to our public trees and each tree has data associated with it that helps the Tree Warden, the Tree Commission, the Mayor’s Office and other City departments make decisions affecting all aspects of municipal services and public safety. As the result of software provided by CT DEP, Mary uses the program to help Planning and Zoning see where tree lines and valuable, inventoried trees are located on specific sites. For the tree walk project, it was important to incorporate the designated trees’ locations in the City. After Ludwig described and mapped each tree’s location, she created a page of tree information, including habitat and shape, summer and autumn foliage, flowers, fruit and bark characteristics, culture and identifying features, for each chosen tree. The product of these efforts is a looseleaf notebook catalogue.

Once the tree walks were created, Mary realized that a brochure was needed to pull the various aspects of the walk together and help users know what was available to them for a fun, educational and rewarding experience that could be shared with family and friends, alike. The brochure invites residents to enjoy finding natural gems within their own urban environments and includes both tree walks, short and long. Each brochure includes maps where the trees are located so that interested participants can take the walks using a tree ID book during a self guided tour. Also, residents, organizations and school groups can make an appointment with one of MTI’s four docents (leaders) who each have copies of the tree catalogue. The self guide brochure is available in most public spaces throughout Milford. Look for the green guide or call 874-8665 for more information.

Milford Trees, Inc. would like to thank the Milford Garden Club for the Appreciation Award we received at the Milford Flower Show for the Milford’s Downtown Trees: A Walking Tour display and for the generous donations to MTI programs. Come visit the Connecticut Flower Show in Hartford, CT in February, 2006. We are grateful for your enthusiastic support!