For more than 40 years, Hartford architect Tai Soo Kim has started his day with a walk through Elizabeth Park, but last year he realized it was time to give something back when he noticed a diminishing number of trees.

“I owe the park,” says the Korean-born Kim, who believes trees create a feeling “of fullness and hopefulness.” During a morning walk last year he started seeing trees in Elizabeth Park, “getting old and getting cut.”

The Elizabeth Park Conservancy had a limited plan for replacing trees, said Kathy Kraczkowsky, the Conservancy’s Director of Park Operations.

“No one has money to plant trees,” she said, so they set a goal of planting planting 10 new trees per year for 10 years.

Now, thanks to a $100,000 donation from Kim, the park is planting nearly 100 trees in less than a year. It was a “significant gift,” said Kraczkowsky, “we could never have done this.”

“You don’t plant trees for today,” says Kraczkowsky, “you plant for 20-30 years from now.”

The daily walk through Elizabeth Park has been part of Kim’s creative process as he prepares designs of schools, hospitals, libraries and bridges for locations around the world.

"Elizabeth Park, in my mind," is a people's park, says Kim, who says seeing a large tree "lift people's spirits" and hopes Elizabeth Park will eventually turn into "more than a park" and become an educational arboretum with labeled trees.

“Almost every morning,” says Kim, “I walk the park.”

Story by Mark Mirko, Hartford Courant