First County Bank Foundation

First County Bank Foundation Pledges $100,000 for Cherry Tree Grove in Mill River Park

First County Bank Foundation Pledges $100,000 for Cherry Tree Grove in Mill River Park

(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.

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.

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