West Orange Township continues environmental initiatives

By Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ — As environmental issues continue to grow in importance nationally and around the world, the township of West Orange has expanded its efforts to effect improvements and research sustainable approaches to climate and energy concerns.

The West Orange Environmental Commission has been an important part of the process, hosting several discussions on environmental concerns, inviting the community to join in sustainable projects and supporting township efforts.

West Orange has been a designated Tree City USA, celebrating the town’s efforts to enhance the tree population, for more than 23 years and holds a bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that works to improve environmental sustainability statewide, with efforts currently underway to receive silver certification. 

In 2017, Council President Susan McCartney was recognized by New Jersey Clean Communities with a Conference Partnership Award, an Environmental Quality Award and a Volunteer Award. Joe McCartney, chairperson of the Open Space Commission, received an Open Space Award along with former forester John Linson. West Orange High School technology and engineering supervisor Ryan Del Guercio received the New Jersey Clean Communities Education Award for innovative projects like “Liter of Light” and other solar power projects, all supported by the township. WOHS “Fight for Green” students were recognized for their participation in the township’s tree planting at The Rock, a preserved open space area across from the recycling center.

Some initiatives recently taken by the township and environmental commission are as follows:

  • Township and West Orange School District joint efforts: The township submitted a grant to Sustainable Jersey and PSEG for bioretention systems at Liberty, Roosevelt, Washington, Kelly, and Redwood schools; grant funds were approved to begin work on Degnan Park and the Floating Island Water Quality Project with the West Orange Green Team and West Orange High School; and the annual Earth Hour presentation is held in conjunction with West Orange schools and environmental supporters, along with Arbor Day celebrations.
  • Open Space: The township purchased a 94.5-acre subdivision of Crestmont Country Club for preservation; and, at The Rock on Route 10, clean-ups, tree planting, a pollinator garden and the township’s first apiary have been set up.
  • Solar and carbon emissions: The township and WOEC hosted a presentation on solar carports for municipal and WOHS parking lots; they presented information on electric vehicle charging stations and adopted an EV installation ordinance; and the WOEC held several discussions with landscapers from the N.J. Association of Landscapers regarding the pros and cons of gas and electric leaf blowers.
  • Topography: Mayor Robert D. Parisi sent a letter to the state on slope stabilization and a resolution was passed to conduct a geotechnical study of the Northfield area; the council passed an updated stormwater management ordinance; amendments to the steep slope ordinance are in-process; there are updated amendments to the tree ordinance; and the WOEC will be launching the Heritage Tree campaign in the spring.
  • Recycling: The Second Chance Toys project at the recycling center has been very effective, keeping discarded toys out of landfills by providing residents the opportunity to take gently used toys or donate toys to neighbors and various organizations.
  • Traffic and safety: The formation of the West Orange Pedestrian Safety Advisory Board, in conjunction with the West Orange Police Department, Nikhil Badlani Foundation, EZ Ride, Safe Routes to Schools and the Teen Safety Driving Coalition, has provided instruction and support for several safety initiatives; the Nikhil Badlani Foundation provided WOHS with two driving simulators; free bike helmets and bike safety clinics have been held; and a traffic light was installed at Alisa Drive by WOHS.
  • Miscellaneous: West Orange recently introduced the Green Business Registry from the New Jersey Sustainable Business Registry.

Current members of the environmental commission are Chairperson Mike Brick, Charles Aborisade Jr., Cyndi Rintzler, Cynthia Cumming, Christina Faust, Andrew Trenk, Township Council liaison Susan McCartney, forester and arborist Ron Farr, and recycling coordinator Michael Fonzino.

The community can attend Town Council meetings or WOEC meetings to voice concerns, offer input and help to provide solutions. It is the goal of the commission to support environmental outcomes throughout West Orange, offer volunteer opportunities and invite residents into the process.

Cynthia Cumming is commissioner on the West Orange Environmental Commission.

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