Photo by Matthew Garrett
Residents prepare to plant a tree on Elm Street as part of the Urban Resources Initiative’s GreenSkills program.
Nobody could have predicted the success of the Urban Resources Initiative, or URI, when it started in 1995, a few hundred volunteers spread over a handful of New Haven neighborhoods. But two decades later, more than 270 community groups have participated in URI’s Greenspace program. Every summer, more than 1,000 volunteers join together, working across the city to convert unused lots into small parks and maintain those that have already been renovated.
“When we began in the mid-nineties, New Haven was plagued by trash-strewn vacant lots and neglected parks,” said Colleen Murphy-Dunning, Director of the nonprofit URI, based at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), which fosters community-based land stewardship and environmental education. “The visible change to the landscape is remarkable. The city has undergone a real transformation.”
Last fall, URI celebrated the milestone with community leaders, volunteers, board members, donors, and former interns at the house of Yale President, Peter Salovey. Speaking to the crowd that evening, Marta Moret, wife of President Salovey, wove the work of URI into a larger narrative about making New Haven a healthy city.