BELMAR, NJ — In Belmar, you can buy a bench on the boardwalk or a brick in the patio around the iconic Doughboy statue to remember a loved one. Now the borough wants to branch out into memorializing trees and benches in its public parks.

The borough council has taken the first step to establish a tree and bench memorial dedication program by asking the N.J. Division of Local Government Services to approve its request to launch the donor-funded initiative.

Once that go-ahead is in place, Business Administrator Colleen Connolly and Public Works Director Michael Campbell will identify areas where trees and benches would be the most appropriate — beginning with Ferruggiaro Park at Silver Lake — and will present that list to the borough council.

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They also will work in collaboration with the Belmar Shade Tree Commission to determine the best placement for trees, as well as the type of trees based on location. The effort goes hand in hand with Belmar’s designation as a Tree City USA, an Arbor Day Foundation initiative that promotes the growth of tree programs in communities throughout the country.

Currently, requests for the planting of memorial trees on Belmar-owned property are handled on a case-by-case basis, with authorization needed from the mayor and council. “This would create a preapproved program authorizing the placement of trees and benches in designated areas,” said Connolly during the governing body’s June 6 meeting.

Requests would be considered on a first-come-first-serve basis, with contribution fees established for each type of memorial, which would include a tree or bench and a commemorative plaque.

At the request of Belmar Mayor Brian Magovern, borough officials will also explore whether individuals can have existing trees dedicated, particularly those in Memorial Field along West Railroad Avenue where the Doughboy statue stands or Maclearie Park along the Shark River.

“We want to accommodate as many people as possible,” Magovern said, anticipating that the new effort will be just as successful as the borough’s memorial bench program along the boardwalk, which currently has a waiting list of 84 people.

Anyone on that list will be given the opportunity to switch over to the new program, also on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The Doughboy statue memorial “buy a brick” program is an ongoing effort by the Belmar Historical Society — with funds raised to ensure the sculpture stands in grand style as a memorial to borough residents who served in World War I.

For more information about that program, contact the society at info@belmarhistoricalsociety.org or 908-309-3380.

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