I like to say that sustaining a sense of community in a neighborhood is a lot like cultivating a garden. It takes time and patience to let the seeds of your work blossom. One Jersey City resident is taking that to heart. Faced with a street lined with empty tree plots, Jersey City resident Nick Milak decided to take matters into his own hands and raise money to plant trees. The effort is not simply raising funds for the block, but encouraging neighborhood beautification projects and community engagement citywide!
I came across this effort in a news article in the Jersey Journal. Further details of the effort can be found at the news section of the local committeeman, Joshua Parkhurst. Milak is a long time resident on the block who became frustrated with the city’s failure to replace trees that had previously died. Instead of complaining about it, Milak decided to do something about it. He set up a crowdfunding page and contacted over 1,300 of his neighbors through social media.
In just a couple of weeks the page had raised enough funds to cover trees, tree guards, and two seasons of flowers for the plots. After this success, the project got even bigger! The project has now been expanded from nine trees over two blocks to 46 trees in a 14 block radius.
What I really like about this effort is that, beyond the trees themselves, the tree planting effort has helped engage the community on a greater level. The project has attracted the attention of the Jersey City Parks Coalition which hopes to encourage and assist similar efforts throughout the city. One local business owner is supporting the effort and hopes to add outdoor seating to his cafe so people can enjoy the natural scenery. The project can also be used as a lesson in civics and volunteerism for students at the elementary and middle school right across the street.
It is great to see Jersey City residents so involved in making their city a better looking place. Just by persistently reaching out to his neighbors, Nick Malik did more than plant trees, he planted the seeds of a green network throughout the city.