BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - They arrived before opening time, forming a long line of vehicles along Plainfield Avenue, and kept coming for hours. Some cars took one seedling, some took four, five or six. Dogwoods, pawpaws, swamp white oaks, hackberries, redbuds. They took them to put in wet spots.  They took them to put in shady areas and sunny areas. They took them to plant at their homes and make them more beautiful.

Environmental Commission volunteers organized the event, which happened Saturday June 6 at Columbia Middle School. Friends and family of the Commission helped with the distribution. The goal was to distribute 1,000 tree seedlings to Berkeley Heights residents. “We gave out most of the seedlings at the event,” said Environmental Commission Chair Richard Leister. “Any leftovers went to the fourth grades or to Hall’s Garden Center, which will offer them to customers free of charge.”

The event was inspired by the New Jersey Tree Recovery campaign, which offers free seedlings to municipalities. As the citizens of New Jersey rebuild their communities, New Jersey Tree Recovery campaign is working to bring back the beauty of the tree line. Formed as a partnership between the the Arbor Day Foundation and the New Jersey of State Forestry Service, the campaign focuses on providing trees to homeowners and communities who lost their urban canopy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

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“This project was important to me,” said volunteer Jessica Franolic, “because I like to give back to my community, especially during stressful times like these. I also am very passionate about helping the environment and so this event satisfied both of those wishes.”

Another volunteer, Amalia Canovas added, “This event is important because we need more trees everywhere, for environmental reasons, to clean the air and to prevent floods.  Also, since some of the tree will have flowers, they will contribute to the beautification of the town.” 

Trees sequester carbon (CO2), reducing the overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  A tree is a natural air conditioner and filter.  The evaporation from a single tree can produce the cooling effect of ten room-size, residential air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

The 67,150 trees planted last year will reduce carbon dioxide by 87,064 tons, reduce non-carbon dioxide air pollution by 379 tons, save $12,024,729 in energy costs, and intercept 1,444,796,059 gallons of rainfall.

The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission was established to protect, develop or use natural resources, including water resources, located within the Township. The Environmental Commission is an advisory group with the responsibility to recommend plans and programs to the Planning Board for the development and use of open lands and wetlands. All the members volunteer their time on a variety of projects and tasks.

Keep up with other Environmental Commission activities on the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission Facebook page.