They may have been hidden underneath the masks of the dozen or so people setting up shop at Conrow Road Park on Thursday, but the smiles were contagious.
The Delran Green Team of Sustainable Delran spent more than three hours distributing free tree seedlings to residents, making up for an Arbor Day event that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chairman Bill Curzie got out a dry erase board and black marker and sketched “Free Trees” to produce a makeshift sign, flagging down rush-hour traffic off Haines Mill Road to take part in the event. Debbie Hammond and Al Carp were among the other Green Teamers marveling at the healthy trees planted during last year’s Arbor Day event and hand delivering seedlings to passers by on Thursday.
“We’re extremely grateful,” Carp said of still being able to host the event this spring. “I knew that it was going to happen, I just didn’t know when. I speak frequently with the representative from the (state) forestry department and he kept assuring me it was going to happen, he just didn’t know when.
“I told our team we’re still going to be handing out trees; it could be June, it could be the fall, but we’re still handing out trees.”
In a positive turn of events during a stormy spring, the Green Team was back in action before the calendar flipped to June. Carp drove to Jackson earlier in the week and collected 500 trees from the forestry department, a mix of three breeds: Eastern Redbuds, Swamp Chestnut Oaks and Monker Nut Hickories.
“To me, the prettiest tree is the Eastern Redbud,” Carp said. “It’s a maple species that’s got a beautiful red, heart-shaped leaf in the fall, but the other trees are just as important. The oak tree of course has an acorn that feeds the wildlife and the hickory also has a nut.”
Spring is normally a busy time for Delran’s Green Team, but many events, including one to distribute more than 300 tree seedlings to elementary school students, were canceled within the last two months.
Although the three species and 500 total trees weren’t quite what the team had originally hoped for — one year they acquired 13 different species and 750 total trees to hand out — they were more than thankful to have the event this year.
“We’ve lost thousands and thousands of trees (in Delran),” Carp said. “They’re building a huge development where the Willow Brook Country Club used to be, they’re building a development where Stellwag’s nursery used to be, they’re building stores on the corner of Hartford and Bridgeboro roads. It’s just unbelievable the number of trees that have been lost in the last year.
“This is our way of at least trying to put some back in.”
Along with the 6 to 24-inch bare root seedlings, residents received an Arbor Day information sheet filled with planting tips. For more information, visit The Green Team’s website (delrangreenteam.wordpress.com) or find them on Facebook at Sustainable Delran.
If you’re interested in doing your part aside from planting a tree, Delran will hold “Cleanup Days” through the coming week: from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday (June 4 and 5), and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.