Enrollment is now open for Union County’s Master Tree Stewards program. Members of this all-volunteer organization spend the fall season on guided nature walks to learn about the critical role that trees play in our environment, and each spring they fan out to share their knowledge with hundreds fourth grade students in Union County schools.

Anyone 18 and older is eligible to become a Master Tree Steward. No previous experience with trees or classroom instruction is necessary.

“If you are interested in preserving our treescape, the Master Tree Stewards program will enable you to help young people all across our community appreciate the many ways in which trees enhance public health, and provide both civic and environmental benefits,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen.

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Trees are well known for their environmental role in reducing airborne pollutants and reducing storm runoff. Studies have also linked urban trees to improved public health and safety as well as economic development.

Master Tree Steward volunteers are trained and certified by experts from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County. The training course begins each September and consists of guided visits to state parks including Cheesequake, Hacklebarney and others.

Trainees also visit the New Jersey Forestry Service to see a tree nursery and maple sugar demonstration.

“Spending time in the fresh air with a new group of friends is another good reason to join the Master Tree Stewards,” said Bergen.

The training includes guidance on using a Rutgers lesson kit to help fourth grade students understand the importance of tree conservation. Along with conducting the popular game of “Tree Jeopardy,” Tree Stewards use fun visual aids from the kit such as a gigantic pine cone and posters about rubber tapping and cork harvesting.

Master Tree Stewards can also engage in other tree-related community service projects throughout the year.

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County is supported in part by the Freeholder Board. The Extension offices are located in the Colleen Frasier County Services building in Westfield, at 300 North Avenue East.

Downloadable applications for the Master Tree Stewards program are available on page four of the Extension’s fall brochure, on the County website at ucnj.org/rce. For additional information call the Extension at 908-654-9854, or email Agent James Nichnadowicz at jnichnadowicz@ucnj.org. Training starts on Wednesday, September 7.

For more information about the Master Tree Stewards, 4-H Clubs, and other Extension programs for all ages, visit ucnj.org/rce.

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