Supporting our URban forest

With recent intense storms taking down numerous trees, it’s important to remember the value of our trees and to use thoughtful planning and ongoing maintenance to stay safer and more resilient as a community. Healthy trees = fewer hazards, a cleaner watershed, and a greener, more resilient Connecticut.

How Hartford’s Trees Serve Us

We’ve previously shared information on how stormwater runoff can cause sewage overflows and other water quality issues for our local waters and the greater Connecticut River and Long Island Sound watersheds, and the role of trees as green infrastructure (learn more on our Retain the Rain page, water facts page, or tree page. To recap, Hartford’s trees provide over $5 million in annual ecosystem benefits, of which stormwater interception has the greatest value, slowing over 590 million gallons of stormwater every year. Additional co-benefits include air quality improvements (nearly 150,000 lbs of air pollutants removed), and energy savings (3.8 million kWhs saved), carbon storage, and increased property values. A 2019 inventory also reveals that Hartford has upwards of 20,000 trees along its streets and in high use public spaces. In Hartford, other forms of green infrastructure are not as ubiquitous as our urban tree canopy, making it vital to protect and preserve our most extensive and invaluable form of green infrastructure.

Right Tree, Right Place

Unlike engineered infrastructure, trees can grow and develop far beyond their initial size. It is critical to be thoughtful of long-term growth when planting trees. Planting trees under utility lines or above sewer lines may not have immediate impacts, but could cause issues in the future. Downed trees or broken limbs could affect power lines, and roots could break into the sewer line, causing leaks and reduced structural integrity. Ultimately, improper planting could result in damage or removal of both the infrastructure and the tree.
As a result, planting the proper tree in the right place is a critical part in maintaining a healthy forest and reducing risk. To site your tree appropriately, follow the guidance of the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s tree resources, which also mention checking for underground utilities with the state’s Call Before You Dig service.

Maintenance and Resiliency

Healthy trees are often more resilient to stressful conditions and are less likely to fail or fall during intense storms. Ongoing maintenance such as pruning and watering during dry spells can help keep trees healthy. Furthermore, preserving our mature trees is essential as they make up the largest portion of our existing canopy and consequently provide the most benefits.  

In conclusion, proper planting and ongoing care will ensure that we will have a healthy, lower risk urban forest that keeps our water and air clean far into the future.

Sources: 2014 American Forests Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Planting Plan, TreeKeeper, CT DEEP, CBYD

The Retain the Rain program is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Hartford Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund. The views contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.