Tree Conservancy push for a greener Darien
Together, they chair the Tree Conservancy of Darien, a nonprofit created in 2010 to protect trees, push a holistically environmental approach to develop the town, educate residents on the merits of trees and create a plan for a more arboreal future in Darien.
“The tree conservancy came to be out of the need for somebody to be activists for all the tree-trimming and all the cutting down of the trees,” Harris explained on Monday, seated across the table from Hughan at a local coffee shop.
The women both joined the Tree Conservancy in 2012, and have helped to oversee many of the 344 trees planted by the group since its inception, a detailed process completed by an all-volunteer board of eight.
“We go out and site areas in town that we feel need more trees. Or that we know have had storm damage. We ask the town, either Park and Recreation or the Department of Public Works, ‘Can we plant trees here?’ We pay for the trees, we pay for the planting, we pay for the watering. We care for them for at least three years to make sure they are settled in and will continue to thrive,” Harris said. They’ve planted along ledge road, I-95 and along the veteran’s cemetery on Post Road.
Among its more recent work, the Tree Conservancy planted 19 of 30 trees donated recently by Planters Choice Nursery in Monroe — the other 11 will be planted sometime in early spring — around town at the Darien Community Association, Weed Peach, and Pear Tree Point Beach.
The conservancy’s self-sufficiency is important because the town doesn’t have a budget to replace trees damaged by storms, under threat from companies like Eversource, for example, who opt for to remove trees completely, rather than cut troublesome branches, to protect power lines, Harris said.
For more information on the Tree Conservancy of Darien, or to donate, visit treeconservancyofdarien.org/
Much of the Tree Conservancy’s job is to build relationships with the town. The group was instrumental in drafting parts of the town’s 2016 Plan of Conservation and Development.
Still, although the town was receptive to the Tree Conservancy’s input in drafting the document, Harris and Hughan said the goals laid out don’t carry much weight without a full-time tree warden or official commission status for the conservancy, which was a goal in the early stages of the nonprofit but has since been abandoned.
“They were open to what we asked for. They’re really not in a position where they can enforce the things that we recommended,” Hughan said.
Both women do, however, acknowledge a positive working relationship with the town, aided by Harris’ efforts toward cordiality.
“Sabina has done an amazing job of getting to know the people in the town,” Hughan said.
Building that relationship is important, according to Hughan, in order to address some issues plaguing the town, like drainage, and to mitigate the effects that global warming could have on Darien.
“When you think about trees and what they provide in terms of oxygen and from an energy conservation perspective. The shade of a tree, what is does to help with air conditioning and what not. But also the gallons of water that are soaked up by a tree. We have a severe drainage problem in our town,” Hughan said.
Despite these potential issues, both women said they feel encouraged by pockets of environmentalism throughout the United States — notwithstanding national setbacks like Scott Pruitt’s candidacy as chief of the Environmental Protections Agency and the approval of a permit to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline — and are optimistic that future generations of Darienites will take up their cause for a greener town.
“The older I get now, I feel like some of these trees we’re putting in, I’ll never see them mature. But it is sort of nice to feel like there is a sense of legacy associated with what we’re planting now,” Hughan said.