The Riverfield Drive community of Bedford ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign to transform their neighbourhood by raising money to fill a busy road with trees.
Bedford Borough Council launched its tree sponsorship scheme on the Trees for Streets national tree sponsorship platform this summer, and it is proving popular with local communities like Riverfield.
A community initiative
Bedford Borough Council launched its tree sponsorship scheme on the Trees for Streets platform in summer 2021. Soon after, residents of Riverfield Drive decided to get involved.
The street was growing increasingly busy and suffered from many of the issues that can come with heavy traffic. Local residents wanted to get on board with the scheme and benefit from the positive effects that trees can bring – like reduced speeding, pollution and littering.
Residents of the Riverfield area were already taking an active role in taking care of their neighbourhood, with regular litter picking events and other activities.
So, rather than do things by halves and plant just a few trees, they decided to line the entire street with 15 beautiful, mature specimens.
We love our neighbourhood, and feel that the benefits trees can bring, such as helping to calm speeding traffic, combat pollution and generally making the area greener will help to address some of the negative aspects of living along an increasingly busy road.
Lead volunteer Gemma Lane
The community needed to raise £4,500 for the 15 trees to line the street – a significant amount of money! To get things started, the Riverfield Residents Association sponsored three trees, bringing the remaining fundraising target down to £3,600.
An online crowdfunding page was set up to collect donations. Using this approach meant that people who couldn’t afford to sponsor an entire tree could still get involved – every single donation, no matter how small, would count.
Letters were distributed to residents’ homes to inform them about what was happening, and how to get involved, and posters were displayed on the noticeboards along the road. The campaign was also promoted on the Riverfield Residents Association Facebook group, along with regular progress updates. The ward councillors did their bit to spread the word too.
People have the power
The campaign was a roaring success, with the total amount raised exceeding the original target – meaning that 18 trees will actually be planted in Riverfield Drive. As well as being covered in several local media outlets, the project even got a mention on BBC Look East!
More than 80 people contributed to the total fundraised, and some of the businesses in the area chipped in too, including Bells Motor Group (owners of the Volvo dealership), and the local branch of McDonald’s.
As well as achieving their goal and all the positives that these trees will bring to the local area, there were other unexpected benefits from being involved in the scheme. By working together as a community, residents have felt a renewed connection to their neighbours and pride in their local area. They have been empowered to take positive action and have the satisfaction of knowing that they have made a lasting difference!
council and community working together
As well as the positive impact gained from these new trees, the community has also benefited from taking part in the Trees for Streets scheme in ways that they didn’t expect. They’ve seen enhanced community pride and the forging of new relationships between councils and residents.
The Trees for Streets sponsorship scheme connects local councils and residents in a way that is very different to how they normally interact. It created the opportunity for people to work directly with Bedford Borough Council to supplement their tree funding.
While representatives from Trees for Streets enabled and facilitated the connection between the council and residents, the experience brought both sides together in a positive way.
I honestly feel that this not only helps the community and the environment (both now and in the future), but the work the tree team puts in has really boosted the opinion people have of the council. Working together and communicating well in this way will benefit us almost as much as the trees will!
This all goes to show the power of community – people joining together for a common good to make their neighbourhood better. The power of ‘place’ – where we live and work – has become more important since lockdown began. As we all spend more time confined to our immediate local area, that sense of connection grows.
Riverfield’s trees are being planted this season, and we hope to see residents enjoying them soon!