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.”
Need I say more?
I was reviewing some bid specs the other day. A good piece of work that would keep my planting crew working past the tree planting season, and bring in some much needed dollars to the Tree Foundation. And then I saw…”contractor must pay employees prevailing wage”…
Prevailing wage for a landscaper in NJ is…drum roll please…$51.60 per hour! Really. You must pay a laborer $30.85/hr. + $20.75/hr. fringe if that worker does not receive fringe benefits. My tree planting crew works 8-10 weeks at best. They are hired from Logan Hall in Newark, NJ – a halfway house (don’t imagine a large Victorian home. Logan Hall is an institution where men are housed 6 to a room). We hire a new crew each spring and each fall. This is a re-entry program for men under parole supervision. And yet, if I want to bid on this contract (and many other contracts in NJ) I must pay these men $51.60/hr. Besides sports figures and CEOs, who makes that kind of money? And don’t forget, our tax dollars are paying for this outrageous wage. So, instead of a park maintenance job costing the county $10,000, it will cost five times that amount!
The Tree Foundation pays the tree planting crew the same wage that other landscapers pay their crews. Because we are a non-profit, we do not get the tax breaks or training stipends that a for-profit company can take advantage of for hiring a man with a criminal record. So, why do we do it? Because it works. Because the men work hard for us and leave parole with money in their pockets. They can get an apartment, buy groceries, and find a job with the money they have made working for the Tree Foundation. It is the right thing to do. And I get to meet some interesting characters.
By bidding on a contract that insists I pay each crewman $51.60/hour, am I not feeding from the same trough that has bankrupt New Jersey? I would love to hear your thoughts.
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.
My neighbor had a very large, very old, double-leader oak tree in his back yard. The other day, we heard a huge crash! It was a sunny, windless day. But that mighty oak lost one of its leaders (stems). Luckily, no one was hurt and no property was damaged. So, what is my point? We inspect street lights, telephone poles, sidewalks, etc. to make sure they are stable and cannot hurt anyone. Yet, in parks and at schools where adults and children gather, we never think to inspect our trees. What if that double-leader oak tree was located in a park, next to a playground, and on a sunny, windless day, one of those leaders came crashing down…?
Help plant 35 trees and 50 shrubs along River Road!
Tools, gloves, and refreshments provided. Bring your family and friends! The event will be over by 12pm. Wear sturdy shoes and clothes you can get dirty. Please help make this a successful and memorable community event!
This project is an implementation step of the Cramer Hill Now! Neighborhood Plan, developed by residents and local stakeholders. We are planting trees to shield industry and beautify a major corridor into the Cramer Hill neighborhood (Camden, NJ).
News! Mayor Redd and Assemblyman Fuentes will be plantings with us!!!
Questions? Call Jessica of the NJ Tree Foundation at (856) 287-4488 or email email@example.com.