Trees on Rollinson Street

Trees+on+Rollinson+Street

Marissa Edelman, Featured Teacher and Club Corner Editor

On November 23rd, 2020, a new homeowner on Rollinson Street, Kathryn Schaub, emailed Our Green West Orange, a not-for-profit organization in West Orange dedicated to keeping West Orange sustainable. This was after she was spoken to by a man she believes was the town forester John Linson, an expert on trees. His job is to determine if a tree is healthy enough to survive, or if it should be cut down. 

Linson works for West Orange two days a week and consults with seven other towns. You can find Linson’s services advertised on Land Conservation Assistance Network where he advertises one of his services: Timber Sale Administration, which includes marketing selling and supervising the sale of timber and other foresting products. 

Linson told Schuab her Linden tree was unhealthy. However, Schuab’s mother, the owner of a christmas tree farm where she manages for native species on her woodlot, had previously assessed all of the trees on her property to determine their relative health. After being told her tree was unhealthy, Schuab told the man who was speaking to her that this was not the case and that her tree was in fact healthy. 

Schaub reports that he immediately switched to a new narrative, saying, “some people find their tree to be a nuisance, they drop a lot of leaves and branches. Not everyone likes having a tree in front of their house. ” Schaub reiterated that she does like having a tree in front of her home. 

Then someone at the bottom of her stairs said, “tell her if she keeps the tree we have to move the sidewalk closer to the house.” Still, Schaub insisted she wanted to keep the tree. 

Approximately three weeks later, she received a notice saying six other trees on her street would be cut. Concerned that some of their trees could be healthy as well she curated a post on Next Door, an app to connect neighbors. Someone recommended Our Green West Orange which is when she wrote her letter.  

In this letter, she explained how the town had plans to cut six trees on her street including two ash trees, two maples, a zelkova, and a linden. 

The same day she wrote out the letter, students Svanfridur Mura and Marissa Edelman went canvassing to the neighbors and asked them to reconsider their decision about their trees and speak at the town council meeting that would take place the next day. 

The town council meeting resulted in the decision to go back to the homes of the tree owners to reassess whether they would like to keep their tree, allowing them a chance to reconsider their initial decision. 

The town engineer, Leonard Lepore, allowed student Marissa Edelman, Our Green West Orange member Joyce Rudin, and Kathryn Schaub to observe, as asked the homeowners if they would like to reconsider keeping their tree. 

Schaub also then asked Lepore what her tree was listed as. They previously told her it was in poor condition. However, now the tree was listed as being in fair condition. 

The owners of the linden tree made the decision to keep it as it was only going to be removed for sidewalk repairs, which could be worked around the tree. The owners of the zelkova also made the decision to keep their tree, which was leaning towards the street and was going to be removed for curb and sidewalk repair. 

The owner of the tree said, “I love my tree; I would like to keep it if at all possible.” They had originally told the owner that the tree needed to be removed in order for the sidewalk and for a safety hazard to be repaired. 

In order to keep the two ash trees on the street, they would need to inoculate them every  2 years, a process which would cost $100-$200 each time. It costs the town $1,000 to remove a tree. The town told the owners that if they would like to keep the tree it would be their responsibility to inoculate it. 

Lepore agreed that it is the town’s responsibility to uphold the upkeep of trees. However, he said it is a better investment to cut down a tree and replace it. 

One of the trees, an 18-inch ash, produces 6000 pounds of oxygen. It will take many years, however, for the saplings they would replace the trees with to produce the same benefits. 

Both owners of the ash trees made the decision to keep their trees and invest in inoculating them themselves. 

Out of the six trees that were to be cut the only trees that ended up coming down were the two maple trees, both of which were in poor condition.

On the other side of the street it also appears that many trees at one point have been cut. In the town tree ordinance it says that the town is responsible for replacing all shade trees. When Mr. Lepore was asked about possible replacement trees eventually being grown on that side of the street, he answered that they would grow some soon. He also informed the group that these trees were cut in the 90s.

Councilwoman McCartney was also asked about plans to regrow trees on that side of Rollinson. She replied that it is not on any agenda. 

There currently is no record of where trees have been cut nor where and when they will be replaced. McCartney said they are hiring a Tree Carer, who will do the job of creating such a record. It would eventually be found on the website of the Public Works department.