BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Four years after setting a townwide goal to plant 5,000 trees in five years, township officials plan to dedicate the approximate 5,000th tree planting on Arbor Day, this Saturday, and also give away free trees to the first 40 residents who arrive at the celebration.

The event, timed to coincide with Arbor Day, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 29, in the parking lot by the municipal pool at Pleasant Valley Park off Valley Road in Basking Ridge.

The reaching of the goal and tree giveaway were announced earlier this spring on the township website. The “Five in 5” initiative, as it was known, was jointly launched by the township’s Shade Tree and Environmental commissions to recover some the trees lost after Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012.

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The goal was to restore about one-third of the 15,000 estimated trees claimed by the hurricane.

The township planted trees on municipal property and elsewhere, and residents were encouraged to plant at least one tree per year on their property and to notify the township to enable it to keep count. Along with the township's support for the initiative, Back to Nature Home and Garden Center in Basking Ridge gave away many hundreds of free trees to help promote the cause throughout the past few years.

Somerset County giving away trees on Friday, April 28

Meanwhile, Somerset County''s annual Arbor Day celebration and Native Tree Give-Away will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 28 at two locations, one in Basking Ridge, and the other in Somerset (Franklin Township.)

The county will make a diverse selection of free native trees available, including 14 different species native to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

All trees are free while supplies last.

The event will occur at two separate Somerset County Park locations: The Environmental Education Center (EEC), located at 190 Lord Stirling Road in Basking Ridge, and the Rudolf W. van der Goot Rose Garden in Colonial Park in Somerset (Franklin Township), Parking Lot A at 156 Mettlers Road.

At the EEC, staff will lead a walking tour of the experimental American Chestnut Grove at 2 p.m. The EEC has partnered with The American Chestnut Foundation to plant the first Restoration 1.0 hybrid blight resistant chestnut trees in New Jersey.

Arbor Day activities at both locations will also include day-long planting demonstrations, advice on selection of the best trees for specific planting sites, and instruction on appropriate cultural care. One tree per person or two trees per family will be given away.

This event is sponsored by the Somerset County Park Foundation and Go-Green Committee of the Somerset County Park Commission. The Park Foundation is a non-profit 501c(3) created to preserve, support, and promote Somerset County Park Commission programs, facilities, and open space through advocacy and fundraising.   

For more information, please contact Jane Parks, EEC at 908 766-2489 ext. 336 and Surina Rashid, Colonial Park Gardens at 732 873-2459 ext. 21 or visit www.somersetcountyparks.org.