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Volunteers Dig to Divert Water Runoff Harming Norway Spruce at Veterans Memorial Park

Mark Spatz operates the backhoe while Jeff Petrone does the precision hand digging on the swale at the Berkeley Heights Veterans Memorial Park. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Black plastic flexible pipe will drain the excess water away from the flower beds at the Veterans Memorial Park. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Ted Romankow stands by one of the severely stressed rhododendrons at the Veterans Memorial Park in Berkeley Heights. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Jeff Petrone, Mark Spatz and Ted Romankow talk about the progress on the swale. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Plans for the Swale to divert excess water were drawn up by Bruce Hawkins senior V.P. of PS&S, after he determined the cause of the stress on the tree and plants. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The rudbeckia is in full bloom at the Berkeley Heights Veterans Memorial Park. The park was recently renovated by volunteers, with the help of donations from residents and businesses. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On Friday a crew from Spatz & Son built a swale to help divert water from the plantings, including a large Norway Spruce, behind the Veteran's Memorial.

Ted Romankow, former chairperson of the Berkeley Heights Veterans Memorial Park Renewal Committee, said, "Recently we noticed the Veterans Memorial tree was not looking as well as it should," it was showing signs of stress, especially on the lower branches.

He contacted Matt Rhoda, a certified tree expert, who said the tree was getting too much water, probably because of runoff from the park, which is slightly higher than the Memorial. 

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Romankow said he contacted a friend of his, Tony Sartor, a former Port Authority Commissioner, and Executive Chairman of PS&S, an engineering firm, for help. The firm's Senior Vice President Bruce Hawkins, a civil engineer, volunteered to design a plan to divert the water and contacted V.A. Paul Spatz & Sons, of Berkeley Heights, who volunteered to do the labor and donate the materials to do the job.

Friday morning, Mark Spatz and Jeff Petrone excavated a trench around the back of the memorial and down born sides. The swale will be filled with rocks and black plastic drainage pipe to help capture any excess water runoff to keep it from flooding the landscaped beds.

A number of rhododendron in the bed behind the memorial were damaged from the water, as was the spruce tree. With the drainage system installed, the spruce tree should recover Romankow said. 

The Veterans Memorial Park Renewal Committee is getting ready to obtain fall flowers for the memorial and, as it did in the spring, will need volunteers to help plant them.

The Veterans Memorial Park Renewal Committee is made up entirely of volunteers. It was formed in 2015 to help correct the deteriorated conditions of the Veterans Memorial at the corner of Park and Plainfield avenues. Residents and businesses donated time, materials, labor and money to help refurbish the memorials. The memorial was re-named Berkeley Heights Veterans Memorial Park and unveiled to the public on June 4, 2016.

To find out more about the committee, to volunteer or to make a tax deductible donation to the committee, which is a 501 (c)(3), visit the website

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