Yale group restoring the cherry trees at Wooster Square

While it may seem that cherry trees have graced New Haven’s historic Wooster Square since time immemorial, the Yoshino cherry trees that ring the square are only about 40 years old — and that’s a problem. The trees, which were planted as part of an urban beautification project in the late 1960s, have a lifespan of only 40 to 60 years.

The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Urban Resources Initiative (URI) is working with the City of New Haven and the Friends of Wooster Square to replace dying or damaged cherry trees in the park. The URI has also created a long-term plan for the preservation of the cherry trees.

 “We have been working with the Friends of Wooster Square for many years, occasionally replacing cherry trees as they aged,” says Chris Ozyck, associate director of URI. “About two years ago the Mayor asked us to do a real assessment of the whole park, because neighborhood residents were concerned about the state of the cherry trees.”

Graduate student Max Piana worked under Ozyck’s direction to do a thorough assessment of the state of each of the cherry trees in the park and create a categorized listing of the trees that most needed to be replaced. The URI now replaces two to three cherry trees a year in Wooster Square, to create a succession of trees of different ages that will prevent a wholesale loss of the cherry trees in the future.

The Urban Resources Initiative is a not-for-profit Yale University partnership whose mission is to foster community-based land stewardship, promote environmental education and advance the practice of urban forestry. The URI’s three core programs are the Community Greenspace, which reclaims and maintains abandoned or underused open spaces in New Haven; Tree Haven 10K, which aims to plant 10,000 new trees across the city before 2014; and Greenskills, a local jobs program that employs high school students and ex-offenders through the planting of trees.