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Sustainable Communities

Guiding Principle
To promote livable, sustainable communities through partnerships that maintain and enhance the
unique quality of life and environment found in Eastern Connecticut communities.

Goal
To promote regional cooperation in economic development and resource conservation to preserve the unique quality of life that makes Eastern Connecticut a place where people want to live and work.

Landscape Stewardship
Goal:

Assist in creating healthy, attractive and ecological landscapes at the regional, municipal and landowner scale. Ecological landscaping practices can help to conserve water quality and quantity, provide habitat for birds and other animals, increase porous surfaces for rainwater infiltration, create functional and attractive landscapes and require fewer fossil fuels and less energy for maintenance.

Objective 1: Educate citizens, town commissions, landscape professionals and others on the importance of installing ecological landscaping practices.
Strategies:
1. Place information on the ecological landscaping initiative on the RC& D website.
2. Work with the Tolland Agricultural Center (TAC) Grounds Management Committee to obtain funding for ecological landscaping projects at the TAC.
3. Provide outreach support for ecological landscaping workshops.

Objective 2: Help educate the public on home-scale organic vegetable production and support the production and donation of organic vegetables to local communities in need.
Strategies:
1. Support organic gardening initiatives in Eastern Connecticut.

Objective 3: Assist with outreach and education pertaining to the distribution of the CT Lakes Shoreline Protection Manual.
Strategies:
1. Post information on the RC&D website about the new guide.
2. Work with DEEP, UCONN Extension and the CT Federation of Lakes to educate municipalities and lake shore owners.

Objective 4: Assist in the improvement of impaired waterways in Eastern CT on a project basis.
Strategies:
1. Pursue independently or with partners 319 funding.

Farm to School
Goal:

Assist the CT Department of Agriculture Farm‐to‐School Program (FTS) in growing and reenergizing respect and interest in farming support the resurgence in buying local and the reinvestments of good fresh food for kids at their schools and to grow and expand the markets for farmers in Connecticut.

Objective 1: Assist the CT Department of Agriculture Farm to School Program.
Strategies:
1. Post the Farm to School Baseline data report on the RC&D website.
2. Work with the Governor’s Council on Agricultural Development to increase spending on CT grown in schools and institutions.
3. Investigate ways to promote CT ground beef and other proteins for use in CT schools and institutions.
4. Investigate ways to encourage farmers to bring more land into farm production.
5. Assist the CT Department of Agriculture, CT Department of Education and UCONN Extension with nutrition and agriculture education relating to FTS.

Brownfields
Goal:

To assist the communities of Eastern Connecticut in understanding the challenges and opportunities with remediating and redeveloping environmentally impacted sites.

Objective 1: Foster intermunicipal brownfields initiatives involving multiple communities.
Strategies:
1. Continue coordination efforts with BANC (Brownfields Alliance of Northeast
Connecticut) to seek joint project funding and promote revitalization of mill properties.

Objective 2: Conduct outreach and education to brownfields property owners and municipalities.
Strategies:
1. Convene one informational workshop on changes to CT regulations on brownfields redevelopment.
2. Assist municipal economic/ community development staff with informational mailings to property owners.

Urban Forestry
Goal:

Support urban forestry initiatives that include community tree inventories, educational programs, rain water management programs, tree warden programs, and tree plantings.

Objective 1: Promote successful America the Beautiful grant recipient’s projects.
Strategies:
1. Highlight with stories and photos successful projects in Eastern CT on the RC&D website.

Objective 2: Support and promote the CT Tree Warden’s Association and their training.
Strategies:
1. Provide funding and/or support for scholarships for tree warden certification training to the CT Tree Warden’s Association for municipalities in Eastern CT.

Objective 3: Educate municipal agencies on the importance of including tree review in the site review and permitting process as part of any Connecticut land use training program.
Strategies:
1. Partner with UCONN Community and Natural Resource Planning Program to incorporate tree review during site reviews and BMP standards during construction phase of development projects.

Objective 4: Promote and support municipal tree planting and inventory programs and projects.
Strategies:
1. Annually support or fund (1) municipal tree planting project or inventory.

Objective 5: Support the State Vegetation Management Task Force.
Strategies:
1. Keep track of recommendations as they emerge.
2. Help disseminate the recommendations throughout the Eastern CT RC&D Area.

 

Sustainable Communities Updates: News & Events

Announcing A WORKSHOP ON TREES AND TREE CARE
to be held at 4 sites around the state for Municipal Tree Workers, Public Works Employees, Parks Workers, School Grounds Maintainers, State Tree Workers, Tree Board Members, Tree Wardens, Tree Volunteers and others involved in the hands-on maintenance of public trees.
Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Division of Forestry is offering an all-day workshop on trees and tree care, to be held at four different locations around the state. The main purpose is to help those who work on the public's trees gain a better understanding of the work they do. Both a classroom component and a field component will be included. During the workshop, the basic principles of trees and tree care will be explained and demonstrated. The topics to be covered are:
" Basic Tree Biology
" Tree Planting
" Pruning Young and Mature Trees
" Tree Health Considerations (including the Emerald Ash Borer)
" Identifying and Dealing with Hazard Trees
" Field Examples of the Above Topics
These workshops will run from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The dates and locations are:
February 6 - Litchfield County Extension Center, Torrington
February 10 - Middlesex County Extension Center, Haddam
February 27 - Kellogg Environmental Center, Derby
March 13 - Fort Trumbull, New London
These workshops are free and open to all who work with public trees, with a specific focus on municipal tree workers. Space is limited. Please Bring Your Own Lunch - Coffee and Drinks will be provided. For further information, call Chris Donnelly, CT DEEP Division of Forestry, at (860) 424-3178 or (860) 424-3630 e-mail is chris.donnelly@ct.gov

Finding, Buying and Serving Local Food
Beginning in January 2014 through July 2014, the USDA Farm to School Program will host two webinars each month to showcase the variety of ways school districts can purchase local foods. The webinars will be held at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Topics will include everything from procurement basics to using geographic preference, finding local producers, and buying local through DoD Fresh. Stay tuned for more information and how to register.
http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school

Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
The other big forestry topic is the emerald ash borer, now known to be in 15 towns (confirmed in: Prospect, Naugatuck, Bethany, Beacon Falls, Waterbury, Cheshire, Oxford, Middlebury, Hamden, North Branford, Southbury, Sherman, Southington, Watertown, Newtown) and the 4 western counties. The Tree Wardens Association had an excellent meeting in December (EAB management - A Municipal Approach) regarding managing for EAB - very eye-opening.
For additional information please see the CTDEEP website and the CT Agricultural Experiment station website. www.ct.gov/deep/eab and www.ct.gov/caes

Urban and Roadside Forestry Issue Update
by Chris Donnelly, DEEP, Urban Forestry Coordinator

An important issue with regards to urban and roadside forestry is the ongoing debate / program having to do with utilities and roadside trees. To try and summarize the situation - both the Governor's office and the Legislature have been very encouraging of the utilities, especially the electrical utilities, doing more to avoid outages such as those that occurred as a result of the recent storms. As the typical figure given as to outages caused by trees during these storms is 90%, a great deal of the focus in on trees and tree maintenance. This was highlighted in the Two Storm Panel's report and led to the formation of the State Vegetation Management Task Force that was chaired by Eric Hammerling of CFPA and which issued a report last August.
Since then, the utilities have been strongly encouraged by their primary regulatory authority - PURA - to enhance and improve their tree maintenance programs, in the context of reducing outages. PURA has authorized greatly increased budgets to accomplish these enhanced tree programs, and is encouraging what is probably best described as an aggressive approach by the utilities towards tree pruning and removal. The most controversial aspect of the approach that is currently being implemented is a reliance on "enhanced tree trimming" or ETT. ETT is often described as 'ground to sky' clearance in the 'utility protection zone', although saying 'ground to sky' is a bit inaccurate. ETT does allow for 'right tree, right place' type tree plantings, so below-wire trees of acceptable species are allowed.
A couple of other background points. The emphasis on ETT comes about in part because of new legislation this past session, included in PA 13-298, the comprehensive energy bill (Section 60, for any die-hards out there). This section is a re-write of the requirement to notify abutting property owners in which the utility protection zone is established as a zone within which utilities are allowed to practice vegetation management for the sake of protecting their equipment. It establishes this zone as running from ground to sky, in a box bounded vertically by lines the run ground to sky 8 feet out from the outside electrical wires.
This section of the bill was based on language proposed by a Task Force subcommittee, and was intended in part to recognize that the utilities need to be able to provide service while also recognizing the role of the tree wardens and the rights of adjacent property owners, who in some cases actually own the trees in question. There is not a lot of difference among the many parties engaged in this discussion regarding over-all intent and vision for the future roadside forest - the big question is the speed and manner in which we get there.
Boiling all of this down, there is a very lively discussion going on in many parts of the state as to whether the electrical utilities are removing too many trees and pruning too many tree too hard, in an effort to protect their ability to deliver electricity to their customers. There have been some very candid meetings (I think that is the politic word to use) in several communities already involving the utilities and various citizen groups, and these will likely continue.
Stay tuned.


America the Beautiful Receip 2013

Eagle Scout builds new Kiosk at TAC
The Eastern Connecticut RC&D Sustainable Communities Subcommittee provided the funds for an Eagle Scout to construct an information kiosk at the Tolland Agricultural Center (TAC) in Vernon, CT. The scout worked with the TAC building committee and Vivian Felten of the USDA-NRCS for the design. The scout is a senior at South Windsor High School and hopes to be attending college in Vermont after graduation as an Army ROTC cadet.

 

Connecticut Project Receives USDA Grant
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced grants for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program.
"In rural and urban communities across the country, farm to school programs teach students where food comes from, while providing healthy foods that are grown locally on farms and ranches across the nation," said Vilsack. "These programs also create new market opportunities for local farmers and ranchers interested in partnering with nearby school districts - and by helping to create an even more diverse and thriving agriculture sector, farm to school efforts hold potential to create new jobs in rural areas."

CONNECTICUT
Ledge Light Health District New London, CT
Grant Type: Support Service; $100,000
Ledge Light Health District, FRESH New London, and community partners will implement the
"Farm Fresh New London County Schools" to increase the consumption of locally grown fresh
food in the twenty school districts in New London County, Connecticut. By building the
capacity of the 75 farmers in the county to participate in farm to school programming, and by
connecting farmers and school food service directors, Ledge Light Health District and partners
will support farms and schools in overcoming existing barriers. The parties will work together
to develop an electronic purchasing portal to facilitate farm to school purchases in the county.
Ledge Light Health District will also build demand for fresh local food among school children
and parents through a social marketing campaign, presentations to the Board of Education,
town councils, and parent and community groups, and by conducting experiential learning activities.

2012 CT Farm to School Survey Results are now available. The Eastern Connecticut RC&D Area and the CT Department of Agriculture Farm to School (FTS) Program Baseline Survey Report 2012 is now available. Three surveys were developed and sent to farmers, school food service directors and wholesalers/distributors to better understand participation and interest in Farm to School and to identify the best opportunities to increase sales of CT Grown products to K-12 schools. The project was funded through a grant from the USDA and the regional group Farm to Institution New England (FINE). Survey Results (pdf)

ELN: Vivian Felton from NRCS created a flyer for a recent tree and shrub identification workshop held at TAC. One of the pages listed the practices on the ground and the other page describes the shrub rain garden at the main building. Brochure (pdf)

New projects may include the creation of a website that would help to increase the education value of the existing demonstration sites and place to consolidate historical and current information about TAC. The Tolland Ag Board of Trustees is committed to supporting the development and maintenance of a website.
The ELN did not receive the grant for an ethno-botanical buffer, but they plan on reapplying.
The organic vegetable garden will get a re-design this coming year. The entire TAC parcel is considered a People’s Garden and the produce that was grown was donated to a local food bank. They plan on promoting the People’s Garden Initiative in the coming year through video and the website.

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