(l. to r.) Milton Puryear, Mill River Collaborative’s executive director, Rey Giallongo, president of the First County Bank Foundation and CEO and chairman of First County Bank, and Arthur Selkowitz, Mill River Collaborative’s board chair.
STAMFORD, CT - Mill River Collaborative has received a pledge of $100,000 from the First County Bank Foundation toward Dreams Taking Root, Mill River’s capital campaign to build and maintain Mill River Park. The pledge will provide funding for the park’s new cherry tree grove and be paid over a period of five years.
First County Bank Foundation President Rey Giallongo said, “First County Bank has a 160-year history in Stamford and we are pleased to be part of this project that will have an impact on the community for a very long time.” Because of First County Bank and its foundation’s roots in Stamford and their connection to the community, the foundation chose to place its stamp on a very special aspect of Mill River Park.
“These trees and this park symbolize the rebirth of downtown Stamford,” said Giallongo, adding, “The First County Bank Foundation was founded on a simple pledge: To distribute funds to nonprofit organizations that support community and economic development for children and families. What better investment is there than providing a natural environment for the community to enjoy as a whole.”
Arthur Selkowitz, Mill River Collaborative board chair, thanked First County Bank Foundation. “We are very grateful for this generous pledge from First County Bank Foundation. We especially thank Rey Giallongo whose leadership brought it about, and Dick Taber, former chairman, for his early support.
To paraphrase First County’s slogan -- Where you Belong -- Mill River Park is where First County belongs and we are delighted they will be there.”
The new cherry tree grove, which will be located on the east side of Mill River, will have three varieties of cherry trees, including one that blooms in both spring and fall. The diversity will help ensure the grove’s long-term vitality.
Mill River Park and the restoration of Mill River have been on the drawing board for Stamford twice before – in the 1860s and in 1929. Both times events intruded to prevent the city from moving forward. But in the early 1990s, the current plan began to take shape. By 2006 there was a Master Plan for Mill River Park in place. One of the early actions was to restore the natural river channel. In 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers undertook the restoration of natural habitat and river flow. Today, Mill River runs freely.
During the river restoration, Mill River Park’s beloved cherry trees had to be removed. Mill River Collaborative promised Stamford residents that a new cherry tree grove would be created that is larger and better maintained. “We will be pleased to honor First County Bank Foundation with a granite plaque in an exciting new cherry tree grove,” remarked Milton Puryear, Mill River Collaborative’s executive director.
Separately, The Stamford Tree Foundation took cuttings from the original trees and established saplings. They are thriving in their own nursery in the park. Now seven feet tall, they will be replanted in another grove in the park in the future.
Groundbreaking for the first phase of Mill River Park construction will be in the fall.
About First County Bank Foundation
Established in 2001 in honor of the bank’s 150th anniversary, the First County Bank Foundation was created to distribute funds annually to nonprofit organizations that support community and economic development for children and families. As a mutual bank with no shareholders, First County Bank considers contributions made by the foundation a means of paying dividends back to the local communities it serves. Through 2010, the foundation has been able to award 426 grants totaling more than $4 million to various community organizations.
-- About First County Bank --
First County Bank, headquartered in Stamford, Conn., is an independent mutual community bank with 15 branches in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk and Westport offering deposit products, mortgages, trust and investment services, business banking services and online banking. First County Bank, which celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, has more than 215 employees and assets in excess of $1.3 billion. For additional information, please visit www.firstcountybank.com.
About Mill River Collaborative
Mill River Collaborative, www.millriverpark.com, is a public/private partnership of government, corporate and community interests whose mission is to provide leadership for the creation and maintenance of a successful Mill River Park and Greenway. Mill River Collaborative staff manages the design and development of the park and maintains newly developed park facilities. Mill River Collaborative, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation, is working to secure private resources to complement city funding for construction and maintenance. To date, Mill River Collaborative has raised nearly $5 million from corporations, foundations and individuals. More than 500 people are members of the Mill River Collaborative, providing annual financial support for project management, park maintenance and the capital campaign for Mill River Park.
During the past two years, Stamford’s Mill River has seen enormous changes. Today the river flows freely in its natural channel. There is a busy playground, built by 1500 volunteers in 2006. There have been annual playground birthday parties to celebrate the anniversary of this major building event and weekly Saturday morning entertainment for small children. The Big Apple Circus was held in Mill River Park in 2010 and 2011.
“Half of Stamford’s 119,000 residents live within one mile of Mill River,” said Selkowitz. “And all of lower Fairfield County is within an easy drive or train ride,” he continued. “The Mill River Collaborative is committed not only to building this exciting and inviting park and greenway, but also to assuring its maintenance and programming for Stamford and the surrounding communities.”
Today the benefits of city parks are widely recognized. Central Park is certainly the best known example in this part of the U.S., but Boston and Chicago, as well as cities closer in size to Stamford, such as Hartford, have built urban parks. Parks make physical exercise easier and more accessible, and physical exercise makes people healthier. Property values are improved by nearby parks and open spaces. Businesses are more attractive to employees when there is a park close at hand. Stamford is overdue for its own urban park.