If you’ve been following Capital Trees for a while, you may have seen this Board Member before. Frazier Armstrong has been closely involved with our organization for years, and was our first Executive Director. Now, she serves on our Board of Trustees and brings a unique perspective to the Board having served as our ED first. Read our interview with Frazier below to get her take on what more people should know about Capital Trees, what projects are in the works, and the important work we’ve done in the community to date.
Q. What is your position with Capital Trees?
A. I was the first Executive Director through May of 2021 and I am now a member of the Board. I serve as Co-chair of the Advancement Committee and a member of the Executive Committee.
Q. Why did you take on that position?
A. I am committed to Capital Trees’ mission of building public landscapes that enrich our community. The organization is somewhat unique in that it tackles large-scale projects that can take abandoned or neglected public space and transform it into public greenspace that benefits the entire community… there is nothing more democratic than public greenspace that offers access to healthy outdoor activities, gatherings, exercise, or just being outdoors. We work with both public and private partners to do what might not otherwise get done. We have a committed board and staff that works hand-in-hand to identify and explore opportunities to build and advocate for greenspace.
Q. How have you seen the organization evolve? What have you been most surprised by?
A. The organization has evolved from all volunteer run to hiring full-time staff. It has evolved into a full-fledged, mature non-profit with a clear mission and vision. I am not surprised that the organization enjoys continued support from the community through generous individuals, businesses, and other non-profit partners. The city is a supporting partner and I hope will begin to financially support the important work CT does.
Q. What Capital Trees contribution or project are you most proud of?
A. I am proud of the transformational work CT has accomplished. The execution of creating public greenspace is no small feat. The Low Line Gardens, the Low Line Green, the renovation (ongoing) of Great Shiplock Park, and the stormwater remediation of 14th Street are tangible examples of the scale of project CT takes on, plans, builds, executes, and importantly, maintains.
Q. Is there a common misconception about the work Capital Trees does?
A. We are more than trees. In fact, many think we plant trees in the city… we do, but mostly in our projects. We are not just a tree-planting organization. Another misconception… we don’t just create, plant and leave… we maintain all of our work through a robust volunteer program and a commercial maintenance partner that we pay for and it’s a large part of our expense budget!
Q. What should more people know about Capital Trees?
A. People should know about our work with other non-profits who want to create or transform the space they have around them. We will work with others to influence and advise about how to create greenspace around their buildings for community use. A good example is the Boys and Girls Club’s recent renovation of their headquarters in the East End. We helped create a community space transforming an asphalt parking lot into usable and healthy community greenspace.
Q. What is Capital Trees biggest need?
A. CT, like other non-profits, needs continuing support. We are very fortunate to have a strong and dedicated donor base, but we always need new folks to know what we are about and to support our work… financially and as volunteers. Additionally, CT is at a key growth point, so growing organizational capacity is key.
Q. What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
A. We are in the early stages of a project around the Hotchkiss Community Center that will create a welcoming, sustainable, greenspace for that community to enjoy. I am excited about watching this become a reality and I am excited about how the community can and will engage with this new space.
Q. How do you foresee the organization transforming in the coming years?
A. I hope the organization will add staff, add capacity, and tackle another large-scale transformational project.
Q. What’s your favorite plant/plot/project of Capital Trees?
A. I would have to say the Low Line Green. While it is still young and will need some adjusting, the horticultural and environmental remediation of that space… is remarkable. We installed rain gardens that remove 150,000 gallons of stormwater a year. We planted native plants that work hard in a gritty urban environment. We installed new hardscape that offers a place to gather… and, as I said, urban landscapes are a work in progress. We are learning what works and what needs adjusting. But, it was a HUGE undertaking and it was truly transformative. Of course, I love the Low Line Gardens… and the Green was the last piece of that big project.