CHATHAM, NJ -  Chatham Borough has lost 1,200 trees from its canopy over the past four years, according to a report given by Colleen Truppo, chairperson of the Chatham Borough Shade Tree Commission, on Tuesday night at the regular meeting of the Borough of Chatham Council.

Truppo reported that the Shade Tree Commission had planted 281 trees in town over the past four years, but it was a net deficit of 919 lost over that same period. Chatham has earned the designation as a Tree City over the past 17 years and that could be jeopardized in the future, according to the "Tree Canopy Update."

"Despite new plantings, Chatham Borough is losing far more trees than we plant," Truppo related in her power-point presentation.

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Colleen Truppo, chairperson of the Shade Tree Commission, gives an update on the tree canopy in town.

In addition to the yearly free plantings by the Shade Tree Commission, Truppo offered an idea to increase tree canopy in Chatham, calling on the council to create a resolution that allows for a "budget rider" by the commission to "allow homeowners to make donations specific to purchasing a tree (on public property)."

Truppo noted that some homeowners have expressed a desire to purchase a tree to plant on public property in front of their house. The Shade Tree Commission would use that money to help facilitate more plantings and use any excess funds to purchase more trees.

"If a homeowner says I don't really want to wait, if I buy a tree, can you help us plant it?," Truppo said. "If you have the ability to donate, there are many homeowners who are happy to do it and at a great cost-sharing benefit to the town."

Council member Jim Lonergan expressed his support for the "budget rider" and the other council members agreed. Mayor Bruce Harris said that a resolution would have to be drawn up for passage at a future meeting.

"I think the number of trees that have come down are significant," Truppo said. "We really want to make the public aware of that. The average home owner, they're busy, they're doing a lot of stuff, they're probably not aware that we're losing that many trees.

"The Shade Tree has jurisdiction over public trees so we want to trim and treat public trees that need to be treated, but we really hope that homeowners, instead of just lopping down a tree, proactively take care of it. If you have it trimmed every few years, if you have an arborist do an evaluation, rees can be kept up as opposed to lopping them down. People are concerned about safety, but have a professional look at it first and take care of your public trees."

Truppo also reported on studies that show that tree-lined streets increase property values, contribute to reducing energy consumption for heating and cooling up to 25 percent, and has a "traffic-calming" effect on drivers.

"As a homeowner, it really does affect your property value," Truppo said. "Given the number of trees coming down on private property, we can't encourage the public enough to take care of their trees."

Emerald Ash Borer Update: Chatham Borough treated 110 Ash trees on public property in 2016 to prevent the Emerald Ash Borer from destroying them. The treatment takes place every two years, but costs for treatment came in lower than budgeted. Chatham continues to do a "windshield survey" on Ash trees in town.