From the South Orange Environmental Commission:
Wherever you put roots down in the city or the suburbs it’s hard to be a street tree. Forced to live in cramped space competing with underground utilities, enduring winter road salts, buck-rub (deer-damage), and air pollution, not to mention the “hair-cuts” from delivery trucks, bark scrapes from landscaping trailers, and even full-on collisions with speeding cars.
Not just any tree can survive the life of a municipal street tree, which is why the members of the South Orange Environmental Commission’s Shade Tree group continue to work with the Village government, the Department of Public Works, and the NJ Tree Foundation to add 175 new trees throughout South Orange neighborhoods in mid May. This is part of the team’s multi-year shade tree canopy restoration initiative to make up for recent losses to storms, pests, and disease by increasing the number and variety of species planted twice yearly as a hedge against future climate, disease, and pest problems.
Not just any tree in any spot will do, however. The tree species must be large enough to branch out above vehicle and pedestrian traffic when fully grown but not be so large that they cannot prosper in the limited space allowed them. They must be native species adapted to our climate, salt tolerant, non-fruit bearing, and increasingly able to withstand both drought and flood. “When the right tree is placed in the right location it becomes an enduring part of South Orange’s community and infrastructure, providing storm water retention and filtration, ambient temperature moderation, carbon sequestration, and oxygen creation, while increasing overall property values with shade and beauty for generations” said Village President, Sheena Collum.
Street trees are planted by the Village within the area immediately parallel to the street known as the Right of Way. Most often this area looks like the strip of grass between the curb and sidewalk, but the Right of Way exists even if there is no sidewalk. Because the R.O.W. is shared with street signs, traffic signs, streetlights, and various underground utilities, not all seemingly open strips of grass are ideal for an eventual full-size tree. Location requests can be made through SoConnect (Report a Concern on the website | GovAlert app) or call 973-378-7741 x1. The tree team will evaluate the suitability of the location and add it to our database. Tree species and locations will be determined by the DPW and Shade Tree group based upon locational appropriateness, neighborhood equity, necessary diversity, and market availability. If a street tree near you has recently been cut down, be aware that best practice requires that the stump be ground down and left to biodegrade for 18 months before young tree roots can be expected to grow in the same spot. If you are lucky enough to receive a new neighbor this spring, welcome that tree, and try to make its life a little easier.