Pam Wright – I am a Advanced Master Gardener, retired teacher and longtime resident of Willimantic. I have always had an interest in nature, gardening, the environment and their relationship to a healthy and satisfying life. I have created amazing gardens on my own property and have worked with the Garden Club of Windham on gardens in public spaces around town.
When I heard about the National Wildlife Federation’s program to certify entire towns and communities throughout the United States as wildlife habitats, I brought the idea to the Garden Club. The main goals of the NWF program is threefold: to prevent extinction of native wildlife, especially the songbirds and butterflies that need safe habitats as they migrate, to help children appreciate, enjoy and conserve the natural world, and to confront climate change.
My vision was that Willimantic, a small city with many big city problems, was an ideal place to initiate this program. Provisions for clean air, water, and safe habitat is especially urgent in a city environment. Opportunities for children to connect to nature are especially important in a city environment. I believed that Willimantic, a place often maligned and underappreciated, nonetheless had the kind of community spirit that would embrace such a project. The Garden Club agreed and The “Willimantic Wildlife Habitat Initiative” began. Volunteers worked under the logo “KEEP WILLI WILD”, and approached many local groups to act as partners in the successful fifteen month effort.
More than ten organizations, such as Eastern Connecticut State University, The Chamber of Commerce, The Rotary Club, Goodwin Forest, the Windham Recreation and Public Works Departments, signed on as partners. A network of 105 households, eleven local businesses and four schools took the steps necessary to certify their property with the National Wildlife Federation. In addition, the committee certified ten parks and ten community buildings. All these properties provide the four basic requirements for wildlife survival: food, water, shelter, and safe places to raise young. The committee also worked on educating the public about native plants, creating natural landscapes and limited lawn space, the problems of invasive plants, pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer overuse, water quality, and many other environmental issues.
Among the many properties certified are the Town Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, Memorial Park, the Town Library and the Windham Textile and History Museum. Willimantic is one of only two registered community habitats in the State and one of 63 in the Country.
Pam is pictured above in her front yard, amidst her amazing garden.