The Mayor wants to recruit some shady characters.
Morristown’s Shade Tree Commission, created Tuesday by a unanimous vote of the town council, seeks up to nine volunteers to advise local agencies on the care and counting of trees on public land. If you live in Morristown and like trees, now’s the time to go out on a limb. Mayor Tim Dougherty will be appointing commissioners over the next few weeks.
“These are people who are environmentally committed,” said the Mayor.
Among other things, the commission will recommend how to spend $100,000 budgeted to replace trees damaged by Tropical Storm Irene and subsequent storms.
It’s also meant to serve as an information clearinghouse, easing the burden of a public works department kept busy by superstorms and nor’easters over the last two years.
Educating residents about the positive effect of shade trees on property values will be an important goal, said former town Environmental Commissioner Tina Wahlstrom, who celebrated with Environmental Commission Chairperson Louise Witt. The Shade Tree Commission has been years in the making, Tina said.
“The community forest is not being managed in a pro-active, mindful way,” she said.
Another proponent of the Shade Tree Commission put it like this:
“We live in an urban environment where every tree does a lot of work to cool and clean our air and provide soil- erosion prevention,” Samantha Rothman, who studied forestry at Yale and co-founded the nonprofit Grow It Green Morristown, said in 2011 when the commission was suggested. “When you have a town with few trees, each tree matters.”
How much are trees worth? It’s a question the new panel is likely to tackle. The council included trees in a “destruction of public property ordinance” last fall that set fines at $2,000 per incident.
At the time, Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman called the fine too paltry; she said trees appreciate in value, an assertion echoed by town Sustainability Coordinator Paul Miller. Town Attorney Vij Pawar assured Rebecca that the Shade Tree Commission would weigh in on the matter.
A tree damaged at Willow Hall by Hurricane Sandy was valued at $25,000 by an insurer, and others were appraised at $10,000, resident Margret Brady told the council on Tuesday.
“I was shocked at how much trees are worth,” Marge said.