Public Info

Union County Celebrates Arbor Day with Poetry Contest and Free Trees for Schools

Union County, NJ – In recognition of Arbor Day 2014, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is once again partnering with the Shade Tree Advisory Board to sponsor the annual Young Writers of Union County Poetry Contest and free tree giveaway for Union County Schools. This year’s free tree is the pink Flowering Magnolia.

“The Freeholder Board is very proud of the Union County teachers and students who participate in Arbor Day, a national celebration of environmental stewardship,” said Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak. “Studies have shown that trees improve property values and provide many other civic benefits while absorbing airborne pollutants, providing a cooling effect in summer, preventing soil erosion, and helping to alleviate flooding.”

The free Flowering Magnolia trees are available on a first come first served basis while supplies last. Requests must be submitted by Friday, April 11.

Schools that are interested in obtaining a tree can request one by contacting Michele Russo at the Union County Department of Public Works, 908-789-3676 or Parent volunteers who wish to represent their child’s school should contact the school’s principal.

The free Flowering Magnolia trees are about five feet tall and weigh about 20 pounds. When fully grown they will be about 15-20 feet tall. Protective stakes are also provided with each tree.

For schools that receive a tree, free sessions in tree planting and tree care are available to students, teachers, and parent volunteers through the Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H Master Tree Steward Program.

The annual Young Writers of Union County Poetry Contest is open to students in grades four through eight. It is intended to encourage young people to explore the many contributions that trees make to Union County communities.

Poetry contest entries must be received by April 30. Schools wishing to participate should contact Michele Russo, 908-789-3676 or to obtain a registration form.

“Trees are a key resource in our densely developed area and the Freeholder Board takes stewardship of this community asset very seriously,” said Hudak.

Hudak noted that Union County tends to thousands of trees along county-maintained roads and in county parks. The Freeholder Board also provides matching tree planting grants to the 21 municipalities through the longstanding Greening Union County initiative.

Last year, Union County partnered with other agencies and the Super Bowl 2014 Host Committee to distribute dozens of saplings to local residents, as part of a multi-county initiative to replace trees lost during Superstorm Sandy.

“The Freeholder Board also provides support for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County Master Tree Steward volunteers, who do a wonderful job of boosting public awareness about the value of trees,” said Hudak.

The U.S. Forest Service provides free public domain software to calculate the dollar value of trees in an urban community. The latest version, i-Tree v.4, is user-friendly for individuals, students, and community groups as well as professional planners.

Arbor Day has been a national observance since 1872, encouraging the public to plant and care for trees.  This year it will be celebrated on Friday, April 25.

To find out more about tree care in Union County, or to volunteer to become certified as a Master Tree Steward, contact James Nichnadowicz, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, 908-654-9854 or


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