A Salem Oak seedling grows in Woolsey Park

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Arbor Day celebration set for April 29 at Woolsey Park

Hopewell Township Department of Public Works installed a new sign memorializing the township’s Salem Oak seedling in Woolsey Park.

Jeff Troutman and Albert Re, members of the Public Works team, installed the sign on April 21.

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In 2019, a 500-year-old oak tree in in Salem (Salem County), the Salem Oak, died. Before it fell, it was well known and much beloved in New Jersey, according to the township.

The oak tree was one of the state’s largest oak trees, approximately 100 feet tall, with a trunk circumference of 22 feet and a crown of 104 feet.

The oak was much larger and longer-lived than the typical oak, which commonly live 200-300 years. Legend has it that in 1675 Quaker John Fenwick signed a peace treaty with the Lenni Lenape tribe under the tree and founded the City of Salem.

The Salem Oak was located in the Salem Friends Burial Ground, and the community of Quakers cared for the tree from then on.

To commemorate the historical tree, foresters with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP) Big and Heritage Tree Conservation program collected acorns and grew seedlings.

They then distributed a seedling to each of the state’s 565 municipalities.

Lovingly nurtured by then-chair of the Environmental Commission, Nora Sirbaugh, Hopewell Township’s seedling was planted in a place of prominence in Woolsey Park by township Environmental Commission (EC) member Jim Gambino and Public Works Foreman Chris Swanson in late 2021.

According to the township, the Salem Oak is doing really well with its own sign and webpage.

“We look forward to the day when our Salem Oak provides beauty and shade in Woolsey Park,” members of the EC wrote.

The EC is planning an Arbor Day celebration at 10 a.m. April 29 in Woolsey Park.

“We will thank Nora Sirbaugh for her many years of service, celebrate the 31 new trees given to the township and planted by Lennar, and of course, honor our Salem Oak seedling,” EC members said.

For more information about Hopewell Township’s Salem Oak, go to www.hopewelltwp.org/SalemOak.

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