Moorestown Township is celebrating its 33rd year as a member of the Tree City USA program.
“As I always tell people, ‘When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago,’” said John Gibson, chair of Moorestown’s Tree Planting and Preservation Committee. “When is the second-best time? Today. That’s my theme song.”
According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, Tree City USA is one of its oldest programs. The founders had a vision for a greener, healthier America, and hoped the tree initiative would inspire a nationwide change.
The first Tree City USA cohort was comprised of 42 communities in 16 states. Today, the program includes more than 3,600 communities from all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
“They’re (trees) good for the environment,” Gibson explained. “It’s very important nowadays because you hear about greenhouse gases and things like that. What is the one solution that a lot of places are doing? Planting trees …
“It really helps the environment, it helps pollution, it reduces carbon emission, and it also provides shade so you don’t have to use your air conditioner quite as much.”
The Tree City USA program provides communities with a four-step framework to maintain and grow their tree cover. They can receive annual Tree City recognition by meeting four overarching standards that include maintaining a tree board or department; having a community tree ordinance; spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry; and celebrating Arbor Day, the last Friday in April.
This year, Moorestown noted Arbor Day at Remembrance Park, but the tree committee had already made a discovery.
“One of the things the tree committee does from May to October is we do light pruning around town just to raise things off the sidewalks, and we were working in that park and up in the front part, there was this bush that was all over,” Gibson recalled.
“A couple of us were in there pruning away and said, ‘Hey there’s a monument in here,’” he added. “It’s a monument to World War I veterans – Franklin Fortiner, Russell Jones, Samuel Lippincott, John Nicholson Jr., T.H. Dudley Perkins, William Snyder and Armydis Sorden – from Moorestown who died in World War I.”
According to the township’s website, the tree committee’s mission is to encourage and assist the community in successfully implementing a tree management program by providing information and assistance to township council and management to sustain and enhance a forest resource.
“The thing I’m most happy with is that years ago, we had a group of volunteers and once we got done with it (tree inventory) we said, ‘What are we going to do now?’” Gibson related. “We came up with this idea … What if we just did some light pruning?
” … The week before brush pickup (Moorestown has four trash districts), we’ll find a place to prune, and this year we had eight to 10 people come out every week,” he continued. “What’s really gratifying is when a lot of the neighbors or walkers walk by and say, ‘Thanks so much.’”
For more information on the Tree City USA program, visit www.arborday.org.