Mad for Trees is a grassroots local group concerned with the loss of trees due to the increase in severe storms, drought, and invasive pests. To celebrate Madison’s 200th anniversary, the group is striving to plant 200 trees before that celebration year of 2026—and looking for help in a range of ways.
According to Fran Brady, co-founder of Mad for Trees, they consider the organization to be a “subsidiary” of the Madison Pollinator Pathway and both groups are dedicated to preserving the native plants critical for pollinators.
“People in Connecticut have been so used to thinking negatively about trees because of all the storms we have had recently,” said Brady. “The trees have really taken a beating—infestations of caterpillars, drought, they have hurricanes—so they fall over and knock down wires, so people don’t want to be near a tree. But there are good places and safe places to plant trees and that’s what we are trying to convey.”
Brady was a member and chair of the Conservation Commission and his terms on that entity provided unique insight into the importance of trees and pollinating plants. Brady said that the effects of the gypsy moth infestation that occurred several years back also spurred him to act.
“I had to take down six or eight beautiful oak trees down because of the infestation. These were like 100-year-old trees, so I’ve been surrounded figuratively and literally by trees, and I’m concerned about the environment,” said Brady. “I know people on the land trust, the Conservation Commission, the Inland Wetlands [Commission], and former tree warden Robert Kuchta. We got connected and started talking about what could be done.
“In March I saw all this advertising by the town garden club and my wife was a member of the garden club, too, they were planting two-thousand daffodils around Madison and that really was the trigger,” he continued. “If we can plant 2,000 flowers, we can plant 2,000 trees. When I realized that in a few years Madison was coming up on their 200-year celebration, I thought there it is: We might not plant 2,000, but we can plant 200 trees and link it to the bicentennial.”
According to Brady, he contacted the Madison Historical Society, which immediately jumped on board for the project.
Mad for Trees also has several other long-term goals for which it will continue to seek support. According to Brady, they hope to create a town tree commission and to create a “three-for-one” policy in Madison with assistance of the Planning & Zoning Commission, whereby any tree removed whether for residential or commercial reasons is replaced by planting three more trees. The organization also hopes to establish memorial park sites throughout town, according to Brady.
These goals are ambitious, but Brady said the future of Madison’s quality of life are intimately entwined with the town’s ecology and dependent on preservation and these habitat reclamation projects.
Kuchta, who was the town’s tree warden for 14 years and was the wetlands enforcement officer for Madison for close to 30 years, helped co-found the organization. He said trees and pollinating fauna are essential to the entire area’s fragmented ecosystems. Projects like Mad for Trees are implementing a critical component in keeping the town green.
Kuchta said that an important aspect of the plantings will be to protect biodiversity. The organization will only plant native trees, in order to support the pollinators and wildlife native to the region.
“Trees are as important to human life as the air we breathe. For every person born in this world, we should plant one tree each. We cannot live in a desert,” Kuchta said.
According to Brady, the group plans to plant at least 40 native trees per year over the next five years. They hope to achieve this through public, private, and municipal collaboration.
Brady said the typical cost to purchase, plant, and maintain a three- to five-gallon-container-sized tree for one year ranges from $100 to $200, depending on the type and size tree.
“We estimate that 25 (or 50) percent of our 200 trees will be placed on town properties such as town streets, parks, and schools. The rest will go to residents and local organizations interested in participating in this worthwhile cause,” said Brady.
According to Brady, the organization will provide two sizes of native trees to select from: shade trees such as red maple, river birch, sweetgum, and native oaks, and understory trees such as dogwood, shadbush, and witch hazel.
“Our program is going to offer the right trees—native trees,” said Brady. “We want trees that are appropriate for what is needed at any given site. So, if residents want a tree, we will help them and provide not just the tree but assistance in planting and upkeep. These trees really need special attention for the first year or two—watering, care, feeding—so we really help those who want to plant a tree with this.”
Brady and the organization have recently partnered with a state group with fundraising for the effort. According to Brady, Sustainable CT has generously agreed to match every dollar donated up to $7,500 and community support is critical to maximize these potential funds.
“Right now, for the next 30 days we can double our money if you donate through the platform,” he said. “I really encourage residents to do this, if possible because it really help increase the funds we can utilize.”
Kelly Brady, Fran Brady’s wife and member of the Madison Garden Club, said trees are far more important to the overall health of the environment than most residents probably realize.
“A lot of people are starting to recognize that insects world-wide are decreasing. Without the insects, we don’t have the songbirds, if we don’t have the songbirds we don’t have the propagation of native seeds. The whole ecosystem can collapse without trees. These insects need the trees,” said Brady. “These trees are so important to our ecosystem. Famers need these insects for proper food production in this state. They are critical to a healthy environment and biodiversity.”
To donate, checks can be made out to The MAD4Trees Endowment Fund and mailed to The Madison Foundation P.O. Box 446, Madison CT 06443. Online donations may be made at the Mad for Trees website mad4trees, which has a link for donations via the Patronicity platform that will allow for matching funds from Sustainable CT.
For more information, email Fran Brady at MAD4Trees@gmail.com.