By Chris Rotolo |
RUMSON – Following Super Storm Sandy in 2012, Rumson’s Shade Tree Commission rolled up its sleeves to take stock of the borough’s critical infrastructure.
The commission also executed a re-examination of the borough’s Master Plan in 2015 to include green building and infrastructure efforts, as well as garden installations. They made plans to increase the overall tree coverage around town.
Those proactive steps to establish a “green” vision and plan for recovery and resiliency caught the attention of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
On Oct. 19, Rumson was officially recognized as a state leader in urban and community forestry and received a 2018 Green Communities Achievement Award at the New Jersey Shade Tree Federation’s 93rd Annual Conference Dinner. Three other places were also recognized: Fairleigh Dickinson University – Florham; Meadow Lakes Senior Community in East Windsor; and Morristown in Morris County.
The honor was “a pleasant surprise,” said Shade Tree Commission chairman Stephen Barrett.
“Usually, when it comes to awards of this nature, people are submitting work and projects on their own behalf and putting themselves out there to be considered and that wasn’t what happened here,” Barrett said. “This was an organic selection by the DEP and that makes it even more special.”
The other commission members are Thomas Burke Honnold, Kristen Rolfes Hall, Gwendolyn Wisely, Wayne Greenleaf, secretary Fred Andre and DPW liaison Mark Wellner.
Their portfolio of works speaks for itself in landscapes throughout the leafy borough.
In September, the organization ventured to Forrestdale School on Forrest Avenue and planted a Kousa dogwood, an ornamental tree with edible berries that can grow between 26 and 39 feet in height. In October, the commission planted five large trees in Victory Park, and oversaw the award of a street tree planting contract to Pillari LLC for the planting of 43 trees. And in April the commission celebrated Arbor Day by planting 20 more trees throughout the borough.
It’s these types of efforts that have helped the borough earn Tree City USA designation for the past 27 years, a title earned by approximately 3,400 municipalities throughout the nation. The Tree City USA initiative was founded by the Arbor Day Foundation in 1976 to give communities the necessary framework to manage and expand their rosters of public trees.
“It just feels very rewarding to be recognized for all the efforts that the commission and the borough put in to take care of the different aspects we’re tasked with,” Barrett said. “It’s not just about simply planting trees around town. We’re very thankful the borough is committed to green development and allows us to take part in so many different projects.”
In cooperation with different borough departments, the Shade Tree Commission was able to contribute to several recent roadway reconstruction projects, gaining approval to offer trees to be planted in the front yards of all residents whose homes were impacted by the work.
Barrett said having their work recognized in this fashion will reinvigorate and inspire the commission to strive to achieve more with their upcoming projects, including the launch of the planting initiative at Meadow Ridge Park on Ridge Road and another tree watering project with local student volunteers at Victory Park.
However, the largest undertaking will be an upcoming tree inventory effort, which the Shade Tree Commission will conduct with grant funding.
“We’re able to do all of this work and take on all of these projects because of the partnerships we’ve fostered; partnerships with the borough, with the school system, with the Scouts and many others,” Barrett said. “Having so many like-minded organizations in town only enhances what we’re able to do. This is community effort and a community award.”
This article was first published in the Nov. 15 – Nov. 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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