As director of the NJ Tree Foundation (NJTF), Lisa Simms has been a driving force for planting trees and changing lives in NJ’s most under-served communities. Under Lisa’s leadership, the NJTF has been responsible for the planting over 153,000 trees since its creation and developing programs that educate, motivate and bring people together under a common banner – tree planting and improving the environment.
“It’s because of Lisa’s exceptional leadership that we are able to make a difference in cities like Newark and Camden,” says NJTF Project Coordinator Shannon Schaaf. Camden resident Sheila Roberts recalls her first experience with Lisa in 2000, “After I met Lisa, I started to see that trees could bring our communities back to life. It was amazing.” Lisa has engaged and inspired thousands through her annual Celebrate Arbor Day program, created a 11-acre Grove of Remembrance for NJ victims of 9/11 at Liberty State Park, and developed the Green Streets program to plant trees and provide jobs to individuals in transition. Lisa continues to create, seek and recognize opportunities that allow the Foundation to further its mission. Her dedication to urban and community-driven forestry are an inspiration to all who work with her.
Today we planted 16 trees to Shade Jake’s Place – a boundless playground where children of any ability can play. Play areas at Jake’s Place are accessible to all. The ramps are strong enough and wide enough to accommodate disabled adults so that they too can play with their kids. It was an excellent day where NJTF staff worked side by side with volunteers planting and mulching trees, shrubs and perennials. To learn more about this amazing playground visit Jake’s Place website.
Jake’s Place will need 16 more trees in the spring to complete the planting beds. If you are interested in helping us Shade Jake’s Place, please consider donating to the cause.
A new wrinkle to our June 25th post – Can 650lb Trees be Stolen:
Although our Camden staffer tried to work out a compromise with the S. Jersey Port and the tree thief, it was not to be. Seems the tree thief made a fatal error – he lied! And so, the S Jersey Port is pressing charges and the tree thief is in mucho trouble. How do we know for a fact the tree thief is guilty? It seems the neighborhood has a few ladies who stroll the streets and ply their wares, and they saw him do it! And they ratted him out. Gotta love it!
From our Camden Staffer (the edited) story:
“The S. Jersey Port is missing 7 trees. I know who stole them. It’s just a guy who wants to beautify his community… Haven’t met him/her yet, but I would like to solve this in a very unorthodox way. I want him to organize a planting on his block, and I want to replace those S. Jersey Port trees at no cost to the Port. Otherwise, the SJ Port wants to press charges against this guy. I am truly grateful it is not some butthole selling our trees. If we solve this in a positive way, I can feel comfortable replacing the SJ Port trees because my culprit won’t take any more. I also think the Port is more likely to work with us again if we take care of this for them. They are SO MAD, and I understand why. They want the resident to pay…hopefully, my solution will work and all will be good in the world again.”
Starting out in Urban Forestry, my favorite tree was the Zelkova. Tall, majestic and vase-shaped, the Zelkova is not native to the US, but was used as an alternative for the Elm when Dutch Elm Disease almost wiped them out completely. In my hometown, our main thoroughfare was lined with beautiful Elms, creating a shaded canopy along the sidewalks where I rode my bike. Then, Dutch Elm Disease came calling, and our streets and sidewalks were bare.
Today, my favorite tree is the Willow oak. It happened about 11 years ago when work brought me to Washington DC and I saw the most magnificent trees – Willow oaks. Huge trees lining the roads and sidewalks, and shading DC parks. I fell in love.
Seven years ago, the NJ Tree Foundation planted a 10-acre Living Memorial in tribute to the NJ victims of 9/11/2001. It is called the Grove of Remembrance. In this memorial there are over 40 different tree species including Zelkovas and Willow oaks. Both hardy trees, the Willow oaks are thriving! This Living Memorial is located in Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ on a former brownfield. There is no “soil” to speak of, just fill. And environmental conditions there are quite harsh. It is my personal barometer for hardiness in trees and shrubs. If a plant can survive in the Grove of Remembrance, it can survive anywhere.
And so, my newest favorite tree, the Willow oak, has not let me down. It is a happy camper in the Grove, and doing me proud.