RAHWAY, NJ--Over the months of March and April, there is considerable attention given to the environment and all things green. Arbor Day is in March and Earth Day is in April. As evidenced by several of TAPinto Rahway's recent posts and articles, the county and the state provide an array of events, contests, and commemorations acknowledging the Garden State's efforts to live up to its nickname, even if those unfortunate enough to live in other places continue to ask, "And WHY is New Jersey called the Garden State?"

Just to provide a few recent examples: we've had the announcement about the Arbor Day poetry contest's extension and the county's Free Trees to Schools program. We've provided information about free guided nature walks for those over 55, and there was a fascinating piece about an advocacy group's efforts to convert unused train lines into greenways. As the month progresses, we'll also do an article on the history of Arbor Day, and once April hits, we'll do the same for Earth Day. 

So amidst flipping through flyers, researching these various events upcoming, and pondering a few of the articles we might consider writing that would be of interest to our readers, a curious fact emerged. Rahway is officially designated a "Tree City USA." Okay. A tree city. A city with trees? What exactly is a Tree City and how does one secure this title? Also raised were additional considerations. How long has Rahway been a Tree City, and is this a membership into a club that demands an annual renewal fee? Or is this more akin to securing lifelong admission into an exclusive group? Are there Tree City meetings or Tree City gatherings? Is there a quarterly Tree City newsletter with an editor and a Board of Directors?

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The issue is addressed, at least in part, on the City of Rahway's website. It states, "Rahway is responsible for over 6,600 shade trees in our city and has the honor of being named a Tree City USA for its care and promotion of healthy trees. These trees help contribute to the attractive character of Rahway, and it is also estimated that each street tree adds $5,000 to the value of a home and keeps homes cooler in the summer."

Tree City USA, it turns out, is a program run by the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and educational organization that works to make "our world cleaner and greener." The foundation oversees admission of individual towns and cities to Tree City USA. There is an application process and a database maintained of those enrolled. As the Arbor Day Foundation states, the program "is greening communities across the country. This program is a great opportunity to celebrate the importance of an urban tree canopy and improve care of these vital city trees."

Nonetheless, questions remain. What are the specific criteria for admission? How many cities in New Jersey, never mind throughout the nation, qualify for this coveted title? What is the specific history and background of Rahway's designation as a Tree City USA?

TAPinto Rahway is on the case. For all of our readers who have pondered some of these questions before, or for those of you only now becoming aware of the issue after reading this article, no need to worry. We have reached out to the Arbor Day Foundation and will speak to the Mayor's Office too. Please stay tuned for a follow-up piece that will, it is to be hoped, finally answer some of the vexed questions raised herein.

"Of all man's works of art, a cathedral is greatest," abolitionist and reformer Henry Ward Beecher observed. "A vast and majestic tree is greater than that."