BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Almost two years after Superstorm Sandy felled or damaged thousands of trees in the Somerset Hills, Back to Nature Home & Garden in Basking Ridge will donate 1,000 free trees to Bernards residents this fall to boost a township initiative to replace 5,000 lost trees within five years.

Donation to help meet goal of planting 5,000 trees over five years in Bernards Township

The donation of the trees and also shrubs by Back to Nature, located at 3055 Valley Road, is in partnership with the "Five in 5 Campaign" already launched by the Bernards Township Shade Tree Commission, in cooperation with the Township Committee.

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The free trees will be available for pick-up at Back to Nature’s retail location starting Friday, September 26 through Sunday, Oct. 5. Residents should bring some proof that they live in Bernards Township, said Township Administrator Bruce McArthur. The plantings, in containers, are available one per household, according to information from the township.

The trees to be available to residents will be dawn redwoods, willows, cedars, acer maples, lilac shrubs, and Alberta spruces that can be kept in a container, according to Back to Nature owner Anthony Sblendorio.

The Bernards Township Shade Tree Commission launched the Five in 5 Campaign in response to the destruction caused by Sandy in October 2012. Township officials estimate that at least 15,000 trees were lost during the storm.

In response to the devastation, the Shade Tree Commission has challenged members of the community to plant five trees in their yards over the next five years. “Hurricane Sandy changed our community forever. Trees that had stood for years were uprooted in minutes,” notes Bruce McArthur, Township Administrator in Bernards Township. “Replacing them is a priority for the continued health and beauty of our community.”

“Hurricane Sandy – specifically tree loss due to the storm - significantly changed our environment and the effects on the local ecology has been great,” Splendorio said. “As a Bernards Township business owner and resident, we are thrilled to be partnering with the Township to provide these trees to help the community meet the township’s important goal.”

The program was designed to allow any township resident to take home and plant one of the free trees designated for the initiative. Trees will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be picked up at Back to Nature’s retail location at 3055 Valley Road, near the traffic light at King George Road. Trees can fit in most standard size cars, according to the organizers.

The township and Back to Nature issued a reminder that fall can be a very good time for planting trees. The weather is cooler, and the sun not too strong.  With good watering and care, there is plenty of time for good root growth before the cold of the winter.

For more information on the program, call (908) 350-7506 or visit the township website.

Bernards Township and the Shade Tree Commission have set the goal of maintaining and promoting a healthy, safe and sustainable shade tree resource to will physically and aesthetically benefit the community and its residents in the most cost effective manner possible.

Back to Nature Home & Garden is a major retail destination for plants, unique gifts, and ecological solutions for township yards. Back to Nature designs and created customized outdoor spaces that are ecologically friendly, inspiring reciprocation between individuals and nature, according to information from the center.