"This program, [called] Cool Cities, is designed to drop the ambient temperature during the summer months by creating a complete canopy of trees throughout the town," said Paul Hugerich, chair of the Secaucus shade tree committee, which will oversee the Cool Cities in town.
Under the program, hundreds of properties, most of them private residences, will receive a free shade tree. The state is picking up the cost of the trees, which Hugerich said have a $400 market value, the town will plant the trees without cost to property owners.
Trees will be planted beginning in mid-October, according to Assistant Superintendent of Public Works John Dubiel, who is also on the shade tree committee. All new trees should be in place with a month.
Residents have questions
Within the past month some residents have expressed confusion over the tree-planting effort at Town Council meetings.
"What types of trees are getting planted," one woman asked at the council meeting held on Sept. 23. "Can homeowners get a say in what is planted?"
The six-member shade tree committee, which includes two residents, two elected officials and two town employees, has selected five tree species to be planted around town.
Properties that have power lines above them will get crimson king maple, hedge maple, and Amelanchier trees, which typically reach a height of 25 to 40 feet. Properties that do not have electrical wires will get the higher-growing pin oak or red maple trees, which can grow to be 40 to 70 feet. Despite the fears of some residents spawned by rumors, flowering pear trees - which sprout small pears that can dent cars and stain sidewalks when they drop - will not be planted.
Hugerich explained that residents will not be able to select the specific tree they get.
"First of all, all the trees we selected are comparable. There are no 'good trees' and 'bad trees' on our list," he explained. "But also when you plant trees, you want to have a mix and diversity of trees within an area because trees are susceptible to diseases and insects. Let's say everybody on a block picks red maple, and there's an infestation of some insect that destroys the red maple, you'd have an entire block of trees wiped out. By spreading the trees out, maybe you lose one or two on a block [if there's an infestation], but you don't lose the whole block."
At another Town Council meeting another resident said she had heard about the shade tree planting effort but had not received a notice, even though many of her neighbors had.
"I see a white mark on the street in front of my home, but I never received any notification of what's going on. Am I getting a tree, am I not getting a tree? I don't know," she said at a Town Council meeting last month.
Residents were supposed to be notified that they were getting a tree by receiving a tag on their front door. Anyone who has questions about whether they are or are not getting a tree can call the Department of Public Works.
Environmental group started program
Launched three years ago by the Sierra Club, the national Cool Cities campaign was started to encourage local communities to address global warming themselves, rather than wait for a large-scale initiative from the federal government.
Specifically, the campaign helps municipalities identify small steps they can take to increase energy efficiency and reduce and fight the effects of pollution.
For example, according to the Cool Cities Web site, Warwick, Rhode Island, replaced 113 traffic lights and 59 crosswalk signals with LED bulbs, which the town estimates has lead to a 1,200-ton reduction in carbon emissions. And Evanston, Illinois, passed a resolution requiring that 20 percent of the city's electricity come from renewable sources; wind farms have since been added to Evanston's power grid to help meet this goal. There are now 1,105 Cool Cities throughout the U.S., including more than 81 in New Jersey.
Working under the Cool Cities umbrella, local environmentalists and other activists are encouraging states to assist municipal efforts to stem global warming.
Planting shade trees in urban areas is among the green initiatives New Jersey has implemented to further the Cool Cities initiative. Shade trees can benefit Secaucus in two ways. First, a single tree can absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles each year, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Second, the USDA's Forest Service estimates that a blanket of shade trees spread out over a large area can conserve energy by reducing the need for air conditioning by 30 percent.
Could be multi-year effort
Although a few residents have asked not to have a tree planted on their properties, Hugerich said the tree-planting effort has generally been well-received. Residents who don't wish to have a tree planted on their property can call the Dept. of Public Works.
Hugerich expects between 300 and 400 trees to be planted this year.
"If the program is successful, and the state forester is happy with how [the program] goes here, we'll hopefully be able to plant 300 to 400 trees a year for four years," he said.
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