HACE and Groundwork Elizabeth Hold Microforest Kick-Off Celebration
Groundwork Elizabeth Credited with First Microforest in New Jersey
On Friday, September 29, the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (HACE) and Groundwork Elizabeth were joined by community leaders for the microforest kick-off celebration at Kennedy Arms Apartments. The project was made possible in partnership with The City of Elizabeth, Kean University, and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and financed as part of a $367,000 Climate Preparedness Land Restoration Grant from Groundwork USA.
Microforests are small urban forests placed within environmentally challenged areas of cities to absorb carbon emissions, combat air pollution, and provide a host of additional benefits. New Jersey is perfect for these tiny forests, seeing that it is the nation’s most urbanized state. HACE and Groundwork Elizabeth, alongside other partners, are celebrating their second microforest, built upon land at Kennedy Arms. This microforest is one of four that will be made possible by a Groundwork USA Climate Preparedness Land Restoration Grant using the Miyawaki method developed in Japan as a guide.
“We’ve been a longtime partner of Groundwork Elizabeth, having worked alongside them to mitigate air pollution and provide services and programs for our residents,” said William D. Jones, Executive Director of HACE. “When they approached us with the microforest concept, we knew it was the perfect fit for HACE; a step to improve the health of our residents within the entire Elizabeth community.”
Jonathan Phillips, Groundwork Elizabeth Executive Director, explained the importance of this project, “We are extremely grateful to Groundwork USA for awarding us with the Climate Preparedness Land Restoration Grant for this microforest at Kennedy Arms and three others as part of our ‘MicroForests for MacroSolutions’ initiative. We are making great strides through these and other efforts alongside Groundwork affiliates to address climate change and environmental conservation.”
“I commend the City and Groundwork Elizabeth for their remarkable cross-sector synergy and tireless work on behalf of Elizabeth residents, which has resulted in yet another Jersey ‘first,’” said Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey’s first microforest will help improve air quality and combat the urban heat island effect in Elizabeth while providing residents a place to recreate and connect with their fellow community members. Such invaluable assets are especially critical in our environmental justice communities, which have lacked access to green space and its accompanying physical and mental health benefits for far too long.”
Groundwork Elizabeth was the first to create a microforest in the state, located behind the Elmora Public Library on West Grand Street. “I am truly excited to announce the growth of this initiative with the second planting of another microforest here at the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth’s Kennedy Arms,” said Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “This initiative represents a significant step forward in our commitment to the environment and the well-being of our community. We are creating a thriving ecosystem that will benefit our residents for generations to come. It’s a small step for nature, but a giant leap for our city’s sustainability.”
“We are thrilled to see the continued growth and impact of Groundwork Elizabeth’s microforest initiative,” shares Heather McMann, CEO of Groundwork USA. “Through our Climate Preparedness and Land Restoration program, we are seeding projects across the Groundwork Network that meet real and pressing concerns of community members on the frontlines of the climate crisis. This initiative embodies the innovation and creative land reuse efforts necessary to adapt quickly to the changing climate. I look forward to seeing this work continue to scale in New Jersey, across our network, and beyond.”
“New Jersey Conservation Foundation is proud and honored to work with our partners in the City of Elizabeth to reforest these remarkable communities. Many future generations will benefit from the work we do today, which has never been more urgent in light of the changing climate,” said Jay Watson, Co-Executive Director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Our hope is to find unique ways to engage communities throughout Elizabeth, and other cities, around the benefits of these green investments to the quality of life for people, plants and wildlife.”
The microforest at Kennedy Arms, in addition to the one that was announced at O’Donnell Dempsey that is now underway, makes HACE one of the few housing authorities across the nation that can boast two microforests.
Additional organizations in attendance included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Office of New Jersey Senator Joseph Cryan, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, New Jersey Department of Health, NJIT Center for Community Systems, Groundwork Atlanta, County of Union, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
For more information about Groundwork USA and Groundwork Elizabeth’s microforests, visit www.groundworkusa.org/spotlight/groundwork-elizabeth-micro-forests-for-macro-change.
About the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth
Since its formation in 1938, the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth has worked diligently to meet the housing needs and improve the quality of life for all the residents it serves. The Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth began with public housing units and now has expanded their portfolio to include Section 8 vouchers, mixed financed developments, and several grant programs that deliver a broad range of services ranging from social, economic, educational and redevelopment. For more information about HACE, visit www.hacenj.com.
About Groundwork Elizabeth
Groundwork Elizabeth is a 501c3 non-profit, founded in Elizabeth in 2003 with a mission to work with the community to make fundamental improvements in the quality of the environment in order to build healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities. Groundwork Elizabeth initiatives, programs, and projects are focused in five key areas: Climate Resilience, Healthy Communities, Urban Agriculture, Urban Waters and Trails, and Youth Development. Groundwork Elizabeth is a Trust of Groundwork USA, a vibrant national network with local roots. Learning from and supporting one another, Groundwork USA Trusts undertake the best work anywhere to improve the built and natural environment in communities that would otherwise be left behind. For more information about Groundwork Elizabeth, visit www.groundworkelizabeth.org.