Hightstown Borough officials are marking the town’s 10th anniversary as a Tree City USA by planting a sunset maple tree in Association Park at noon on April 17.
Hightstown is one of nearly 150 New Jersey communities that lay claim to being a Tree City USA as designated by the National Arbor Day Foundation, having met the four criteria set out by the nonprofit group.
Those four requirements are to have a tree board that provides tree management in the community which, in Hightstown Borough, is the Environmental Commission, said David Zaiser. He serves on the commission and is the town’s Shade Tree Official.
A town must also have a tree ordinance that supports good tree care practices, and a commitment to fund community forestry activities that amounts to at least $2 per capita (per person) in the town, Zaiser said.
An Arbor Day celebration also is a requirement.
This year, Hightstown is celebrating Arbor Day by planting a sunset maple tree in Association Park. There are only a few maple trees in the park, and that’s why it was chosen to be planted there, Zaiser said.
Association Park is an arboretum, with signs that identify each of the 20-plus tree species. Each sign has a QR code link for additional information.
“Maples are indigenous to New Jersey,” Zaiser said. “We are planting this tree in the park with soil conditions that are somewhat wet. Many tree species are not tolerant of this condition, but maples are tolerant of it.”
The tree will mitigate the wet soil conditions by taking the moisture from the soil and transpiring it into the air.
“This is an excellent example to homeowners who have similar wet areas in their yard. Maple trees may help to reduce or even eliminate their wet soil conditions,” Zaiser said.
Choosing a sunset maple tree to be planted in Association Park highlights the overall general approach as to how the town selects trees to be planted, he said. The tree board considers the conditions at every location where it is planning to plant a tree, and chooses a species that will thrive there, he said.
It is an honor to be named a Tree City USA, but it requires some work, Zaiser said.
“Many of us too often take for granted that our town has beautiful, tree-lined streets and shady parks. If this natural resource were not actively maintained, it would eventually disappear,” he said.
The trees provide benefits, such as reducing summer heat with shade and supporting natural habitats, while also “enhancing the aesthetic of our lives,” Zaiser said.
Being designated as a Tree City USA community is a reminder that the community values its tree resources, and that it is actively engaged in good community forestry management practices, Zaiser said.
Trees play a “major role” in sequestering carbon and a vital role in the fight against global warming, he said. Trees take the carbon dioxide out of the air and turn it into the cellular structure of the tree – its wood.
“We cannot expect that others will plant the trees that we need in our communities to provide the carbon offsets necessary for survival. Community forestry management is about planting those trees right here where we live,” he said.