I moved to Point Pleasant Beach 20 years ago and, as a new resident, one of the first things I noticed about the community was the beautiful trees.
Towering oaks and maples mingled with sycamores, as well as pines and cedars, providing shade, beauty, and a home for many varieties of wildlife.
Fast forward twenty years and there are noticeably fewer trees in Point Beach. According to Point Beach Councilwoman Kristine Tooker, the number of trees cut down in the borough far exceeds the number of trees planted.
Tooker also educated me on some sobering facts: the loss of shade trees is both aesthetically and environmentally disastrous and is a concern to both Point Beach residents as well as the local Environmental Committee.
Enter the Point Pleasant Beach Shade Tree Commission. Founded in 2008, the commission’s goal is to protect, foster, and replenish the borough's shade trees. While trees along the curb line (public right of way) are automatically protected from being cut down, trees on private residences are not.
To this end, the commission is working toward getting an ordinance passed to protect or replenish shade trees. If the ordinance passes, Point Beach residents would need a permit to remove trees of a certain size on their property; then, the tree which was removed must be replaced with another tree on their property.
Residents would also have the option to submit a donation for a shade tree to be planted elsewhere in town to replace the tree that was cut down.
Sound extreme? Not really. While some residents, citing property rights, might object to a shade tree ordinance, shade trees provide some significant benefits to a community. Shade trees anchor soil to prevent erosion, which prevents flooding.
They also provide oxygen and clean air, are home for birds and other wildlife, and are a buffer from the elements. Shade trees supply insulation to houses which helps to cut cooling costs, and are aesthetically pleasing which increases property values.
Lastly, they protect our waterways by filtering nitrogen pollution, otherwise known as eutrophication. (For more information on the devastating effects of nitrogen pollution, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutrophication.)
“This ordinance, if passed, would be resident-friendly and non-punitive,” said Tooker, who is also council liaison to the Shade Tree Commission.
Kitty Stillufsen, commission chairwoman, said, “Many other towns, particularly in affluent areas, already have Shade Tree ordinances, committees or commissions.”
The Point Beach Shade Tree Commission recently developed a new tree planting program called Big and Beautiful Trees.
For a $300 tax-deductible donation, the program provides Beach residents with a large native tree (8-12 feet tall) to be delivered, planted, and equipped with a Treegator watering system.
The program, which started operating only two months ago, holds plantings in the spring and fall. So far, 17 donations were submitted for shade trees.
“We were very surprised by that number,” said Pete Renner of the Shade Tree Commission. “We thought we’d only get five to six orders for the spring planting.”
For more information on the Shade Tree Commission, go to http://www.pointpleasantbeach.org/bdshadetree.shtml, or to order a shade tree for the autumn, log onto Facebook and look up the Point Pleasant Beach Shade Tree Commission.