The best time to plant a tree

Moorestown residents gather at Perkins Center for the Arts for the township’s annual celebration of Arbor Day

From left, Sandy Daniels, Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie, Dave Daily, Mayor Lisa Petriello, Carl Cutler, John Gibson and Victoria Napolitano stand next to a rising sun redbud, one of four trees planted on the grounds of the Perkins Center for the Arts in celebration of Arbor Day.

On the final Friday of April we celebrate Arbor Day, a day to acknowledge the many benefits we reap from our local trees. It’s a holiday often observed with a ceremonial planting of trees.

On Friday, April 26, a group of Moorestown residents, among them members of the Tree Planting and Preservation Committee, the Moorestown Improvement Association and the Moorestown Garden Club, braved pouring rain to participate in Moorestown’s Arbor Day Celebration at the Perkins Center for the Arts.

The celebration was marked with the planting of an Arbor Day tree as well as three memorial trees on the Perkins Center grounds.

“I want to thank you all for coming to the Moorestown Arbor Day celebration. The weather is glorious, so we’re going to do this and hopefully we’ll all stay a little dry,” said president of the Moorestown Garden Club, Jean Pollack, opening the ceremony with a hint of sarcasm.

She introduced the garden club as one of the many civic organizations that supports historic Moorestown. According to Pollack, the mission of the garden club is to work toward the beautification and education of the community, while increasing knowledge of horticulture, floral design, conservation and landscaping.

Trees certainly fall under the purview of the garden club locally, but Pollack made sure to acknowledge the wider, global impact of trees as well.

“Trees are the best known technology to cool the planet. It’s important to note, trees not only release oxygen, but they also consume carbon dioxide, and most fabulously, they provide habitats for wildlife, all while being exquisitely beautiful,” said Pollack.

Moorestown Improvement Association President David Schill shared some of the history of Arbor Day in America, recounting the story of newspaper editor Julius Sterling Morton, a lover of nature who established Arbor Day in Nebraska City, Neb., in 1872.

“It was claimed that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day,” reported Schill.

The improvement association president concluded his address by presenting Mayor Lisa Petriello with a check for $500 from the association for the purpose of purchasing and planting more trees throughout the township.

Next to present was John Gibson of the Tree Planting and Preservation Committee, who accepted the Tree Arbor Day Award on behalf of his committee, presented by Appearance Committee Chair Karen Chigounis.

Gibson spoke about Moorestown’s status as a member of the Tree City USA program for the past 29 years.

According to Gibson, there are only around 3,400 communities throughout the nation and only 149 in New Jersey with a Tree City USA designation. To receive such a designation, a community must maintain a tree board or tree department, have a community tree ordinance, spend $2 per capita on tree-related items and, finally, celebrate Arbor Day.

“We don’t take it as an obligation, as a hardship that we have to celebrate Arbor Day, we really like to celebrate, we happily do,” said Gibson.

According to Gibson, each of the four trees planted around the Perkins Center for Arbor Day have their own significance.

A pink dogwood tree was planted in celebration of a young resident, Elliot Napolitano, whose parents wanted to celebrate her birth with a special tree in her honor. A white dogwood was planted as a New Jersey memorial tree. A rising sun redbud was planted near the entrance of the center in celebration of Chigounis’ retirement.

“It’s because she was always so bright and cheery as an executive director here at Perkins,” said Gibson.

Finally a hardy rubber tree was planted as an ornamental shade tree.

Gibson left everyone in attendance with a popular Chinese proverb, perfect for Arbor Day, that states: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”