SUMMIT, NJ - According to the famous 'lyric poem', circa 1913, by American Joyce Kilmer, "only God can make a tree." Unstated in the legendary sonnet, of course, is that mere mortals are the ones to tend to these celestial creations.

Trees abound in Union County, and the "Master Tree Stewards" program informs and instructs residents about general knowledge, conservation and community outreach relating to the tall co-habitants, while also enabling participation in fun community service projects.

Each volunteer "Master Tree Steward" is trained and certified by experts from Rutgers University. The training begins on September 6 and consists mainly of guided walks through local nature preserves, including Cheesequake State Park and Hacklebarney State Park, and a visit to the New Jersey Forestry Service. Classroom exercises supplement the guided walks.

Sign Up for E-News

The program’s signature volunteer effort is the countywide “tree blitz” each spring, when the "Master Tree Stewards" fan out to schools in Union County to provide classrooms lesson on the importance of trees in our environment.

The lesson is based on the popular 'Tree Jeopardy' games and other fun activities that help students understand the importance of tree conservation.

Master Tree Stewards also engage in other tree-related community service projects throughout the year. Trees are well-documented for their environmental roles in reducing pollutants, providing habitat for birds and other animals and controlling soil erosion. Trees are linked to cleaner air, and improved public health and safety.

The program is available to any Union County resident interested in conserving their communities' trees and passing the conservation message along to young people. According to Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairman Bruce Bergen. “It’s a unique intergenerational community service that promotes respect for our environment and teaches children about the diverse natural wonders on this planet we call home.”

The "Master Tree Stewards" is a program of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, supported in part by the Freeholder Board. More information on all Extension programs, including 4-H and Master Gardeners, is available by visiting ucnj.org/rce. No previous experience with trees or classroom instruction is necessary. The Extension provides a lesson kit and other support including classroom training.Applications are due by August 31.

For an application or more information, call Union County 4-H Agent James Nichnadowicz at the Extension offices in Westfield at 908-654-9854 or contact nichnadowicz@ucnj.org.