Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. joined with members of the Brookdale Friends volunteer group on Saturday, April 10th to plant eight Christmas trees that were donated after the holiday season. The trees were planted near the Brookdale Park Rose Garden and were donated as part of a program to strengthen the collection of trees in the County's third largest park.

"I commend the Brookdale Friends for coming up with this innovative program to bring new trees into our park. We are always looking for new ways to replace trees that have been removed because of damage caused by age, decay or storms," DiVincenzo said. "Decorating a fresh, potted tree during the holidays and then donating it to beautify our parks reduces waste, preserves resources and benefits our local environment," he added. The Executive noted that he is using the program as a model, which he hopes to expand to other parks in the 2010 holiday season.

"The main goal behind the program was to get evergreen trees donated to Brookdale Park, but it has become an event for families where they can plant a tree with their children or create a memorial for a loved one," said Brookdale Friends Co-Founder Mollie Smith who organized the Christmas tree program. "It was really touching to hear the different stories from each family. They all got to enjoy the tree for Christmas, but then they also get to give back to the Park and see the tree grow," she said.

Smith and her family were among the eight who donated their potted trees. Other participants were the Atwell family, Catalano family, Garcia family, Granda-Hill family, Hintz family, Kinzler family and Ortiz family. The donated trees were stored in Smith's backyard until the spring planting season arrived. They are temporarily marked with white ribbons.

Three-year-old Emma Ortiz could not wait to find and plant her Christmas tree, identifying by the red ribbon her mother and father had tied to one of its branches. "We live near the park and are aware of how many trees have been lost. This is a great way to recycle a tree," said Montclair resident Liza Ortiz, who also came with her husband Alvaro and son John-Carlos. "It's a nice example of everyone giving a little bit to keep the park a special place," she added.

Bloomfield resident Brooke Garcia said she and her friend Jakub Rowinski bought their first potted Christmas tree because of the program. "We did this because of the program. It made our holidays more special knowing the tree would be planted in the future," she said. "This is about sustainability. It's better than throwing away trees after the holidays," Garcia said.

Essex County Brookdale Park was developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and many of the trees were planted at that time. The original trees that were planted 80 years ago are beginning to age or have been damaged by storms. After the 2009 holiday season, the Brookdale Friends accepted potted evergreen trees as a way to obtain new trees for the park.