Union County, NJ – The Union County Master Tree Stewards will continue their unbroken record of school visits in 2021, by offering virtual lessons on trees for 4th grade students throughout the County. The online format will take place this year in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Tree Stewards are community volunteers who are trained and certified by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County to educate children and adults on the role of trees in the urban and suburban environment.
The program began operating in Union County in 1991. Since then, approximately 200 certified Tree Steward volunteers in Union County have provided lessons to 50,000 4th grade students.
“The Tree Steward volunteers have touched the lives of thousands of Union County residents with important information about tree conservation,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “The Freeholder Board is very proud to support this program as part of our ongoing efforts to protect and improve the treescape in our community.”
The virtual Tree Steward lesson is a live, interactive program offered free of charge to schools every Wednesday from January to March. To arrange for a session, educators can contact Union County 4-H Agent James Nichnadowicz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-654-9854 (ext. 3).
Union County residents who are interested in becoming volunteer Master Tree Stewards can also email email@example.com or call 908-654-9854 (ext. 3).
In addition to classroom visits, the Master Tree Stewards have also been creating tagging trees of significance along popular multi-use paths in Union County parks. The tags are small green signs posted just above eye level, which display QR codes that link to information about each tree. To see a list of paths in Union County parks, visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.
Along with their role in providing habitat for wildlife, trees help prevent erosion and reduce flooding in cities and towns. They also help reduce airborne pollutants, and they help create a cooling effect in the summer. Studies show that a healthy tree canopy is linked to higher property values, lower crime, and other community benefits.
The Freeholder Board supports tree conservation on County property through a tree replacement policy, including County parks and roads. In 2004 the Freeholder Board also launched the annual Greening Union County grant program, which provides local governments with funds to plant trees on municipal property.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County is part of a statewide program run by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension of Rutgers University, connecting citizens with science-based educational opportunities. In Union County, the Freeholder Board supports the Rutgers Cooperative Extension with administrative support and local offices at the Union County Complex at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.
In addition to the Tree Steward program, the Extension offers a training course to help Union County residents develop environmental projects in their communities. The next training session will be conducted online beginning in January. Field sessions may be added in the spring, conditions permitting. For information visit envirostewards.rutgers.edu/county-classes.
The Extension also runs the Union County 4-H clubs for students in grades K-12+. In-person activities are limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, but students can participate in the 4-H Mars Base Camp challenge and many other hands-on activities through the 4-H at Home program.
For more information about all Union County Extension programs for youth and adults visit ucnj.or\g/rce.
For more online educational activities related to nature, science, and the environment, visit Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center at ucnj.org/trailside.
Quick links to all Union County environmental programs and activities are available at The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connection. Please note that in-person activities are limited during the COVID-19 outbreak.
For more information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Drive-Through Test Center at Kean University and the Mobile Test Unit walk-up sites, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 and updates on statewide vaccine planning are available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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