A Tree Grows In Middletown

Three red maples were planted Friday at the Wadsworth/Kerste deBoer Arboretum for Arbor Day in memory of three citizens who made outstanding contributions to the city.


In the place they call the Forest City, officials gathered to dedicate a stately row of new trees to replace more than two dozen last year.

The City of Middletown Urban Forestry Commission Friday at the Wadsworth / Kerste DeBoer Arboretum on Long Lane and Wadsworth streets, in what city Environmental Resource Specialist Jim Sipperly called an impressive turnout — 60 environmentalists, tree enthusiasts, Mayor Dan Drew, Councilmen Ron Klattenberg and Tom Serra and William Russo, director of Public Works.

Last August , the century-old Wadsworth/Kerste deBoer Arboretum, a half-mile along Long Lane, lost about 25 of its 200 trees to the winds and rain, causing $128,000 in damage.

The Arboretum features Japanese Pagodatree, pin oaks, American beech, maples, flowering dogwoods, Stewartia, London Planetrees and much more.

As the sun shone and brisk winds blew, Drew, surrounded by more than 50 species of trees, issued a proclamation naming April 27, 2012, Arbor Day in Middletown, a celebration he said originated in Nebraska and is now marked across the world. "Trees increase property values, enhance the economic vitality of business areas and beautify our community," he told the crowd gathered.

According to the Rockfall Foundation, "Early in the 20th century, with help from the famous Olmsted Brothers firm of landscape architects, Clarence Wadsworth designed and planted the arboretum on Long Lane in Middletown to extend and enhance the approach to his Long Hill estate."

Jane Harris, chairman of the Urban Forestry Commission, led the ceremony that memorialized Francis "Chick" Marino, a former councilman and public works commission chair; Ray Jacobs of Parks and Recreation; and Patricia Evans,
chairman of the Arts Commission. Three red maples were planted in their honor — Evans' is found at the Wadsworth Mansion.

Russo, who has "known Chick since I was in diapers," introduced Serra, a lifelong friend and mentee of Marino, who spoke about the former carpenter, family man, teacher and city servant.

Ray Santostefano shared a few words about , the former city superintendent of recreation who passed away March 10.

Joyce Kirkpatrick of the Arts Commission called Evans "a California gal but not a typical one — tall and statuesque with her signature braid of hair coiled on top her head. She made a very regal impression."

Sipperly marked the city's 22 years with the Arbor Day Foundation's Tree City USA designation, which only 17 of the state's 169 municipalities have earned.

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"To get the status, $2 per capita must be spent on caring for trees, there must be a tree commission and a tree ordinance, all of which Middletown has," Harris said.

The more than $262,000 raised from the "Root For Your Radio" campaign on New England Public Radio, a radio spot recorded by Drew and Sipperly aired during "All Things Considered," will help the Wadsworth-Kerste deBoer Arboretum on Long Lane. In all, 196 trees were received, according to Jacqueline Talbot, River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council.

The campaign will help plant 2,627 trees in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

The city has two ongoing tree restoration programs: for the Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate to replace deteriorated trees and reforest the parklands; and the Wadsworth / Kerste DeBoer Arboretum, which lost 20 percent of its historic trees during storms Irene and Alfred in 2011.

Interested donors may contact Harris at treefanatic@gmail.com or Deborah Moore at deborahmoore@wadsworthmansion.com.

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