By SHERRI RUGGIERI
The trees have been suffering. Everywhere there are broken branches. Trees have been ripped from the ground by their roots. The weather is on the attack. The old and weak are gutted by climate change.
Years ago, I served on Edison Township Planning Board’s Subcommittee to propose language for a tree ordinance. It taught me an important lesson about patience and how long it takes for an Ordinance (law) be passed by Council (governing body). My interest in trees became an obsession. I was politely asked by my husband to not say the word “tree” in the house. “Enough was enough!,” he shouted. Despite the strain on my marriage, I’m proud of Edison’s Tree Ordinance and Tree Inventory. It offers incentives to keep the old trees, plant new trees, gives credit for larger caliber trees, or pay into the tree fund (money can only be used for trees by the Township). It is not perfect.
I learned that the tree ordinance could become a barrier to development. One of the builders even explained to me that if the root ball of the tree is disturbed during construction that the tree will die just in time for the new home owner to be stuck with removing it anyway. It shows how good intentions do not always lead to the best results. At the very least, it should prevent the evil of clear-cutting the trees and thoughtlessly increasing impervious surface. Is some law better than no law?
What about all the trees now damaged by wet snow and blasting winds? The town will be responsible for some and residents for other trees. It seems to me that everyone is cutting but not replanting. Is there any hope for the trees? Are trees a liability or necessity?
Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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