West Orange celebrates Arbor Day with Roosevelt Middle School students

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange celebrated Arbor Day with the planting of a Japanese tree lilac at Roosevelt Middle School, followed by a trip to “The Rock” to view the property that will be turned into an arboretum and locale for indigenous flowers and plants.

Members of the Roosevelt Middle School Student Council, the Environmental Club and Majority Ambassadors represented the school in the outdoor ceremony, where Principal Lionel Hush welcomed guests such as Mayor Robert Parisi and councilwomen Michelle Casalino and Susan McCartney. West Orange Environmental Commission Chairman Mike Brick, township forester John Linson and Nick Salese of the Department of Public Works were all present as part of the ceremony as well.

“West Orange Township has over 10,000 trees, 60,000 acres of Open Space land and 120,000 acres of non-open space land,” Linson said at the event, according to a press release from the school district. “We have been a Tree City, USA, for the past 20 years and received Sustainable New Jersey bronze certification in 2013.”

Work is under way in the township to achieve the bronze certification again.

Linson then introduced Parisi, who proclaimed April 22, 2016, as “Arbor Day in West Orange.” McCartney, a driving force in township environmental efforts, presented the annual “Heart of Green” award to Linson for his work as township forester and as a member of the WOEC.

Brick explained the township’s upcoming effort to plant seed balls of the eastern swamp milkweed plant to aid in the revival of the monarch butterfly population. Approximately 12,000 seed balls will be formed by student volunteers and distributed to the public schools and the West Orange community in the coming weeks.

Eighth-grade student Gabrielle Lecour read “Trees,” the famous poem penned by Joyce Kilmer in 1913, to end the ceremony at Roosevelt. Students and attendees then headed to “The Rock,” a six-acre plot of property across from Liberty Middle School on Mt. Pleasant Avenue. Joe McCartney, chairman of the Open Space Commission, was on hand to explain how they purchased the land with the intent to create a park-like arboretum with indigenous plants and flowers, benches, and pathways.

Plans for the project were unveiled and two shadblow serviceberry trees were dedicated, as an eventful Arbor Day in West Orange came to a close.

Photos Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming