Summit’s Living History
Thursday, June 30, 2011 • 10:00am
Your favorite kindergartner can tell you that trees are important because they provide shade and shelter, and help renew the air that we breathe. In fact, it would be hard to describe our City of Summit without the word “tree”. Trees line our streets. Trees enhance the architecture of our homes, our neighborhoods and our public buildings. Trees provide privacy and help us mark the special events of our lives.
As you walk to town to meet a friend or sit in the Town Green to listen to a concert, do you enjoy the beauty of the trees that you are passing? Do you ever wonder about the history some of the trees that you pass have witnessed?
Did you know, for instance, that one of our beautiful Summit trees inspired the creation of the Boy Scouts? That’s right; beneath the shade of the huge White Oak tree that graces a property on Rotary Drive, famed naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton drew up the original charter in 1902 of the Woodcraft Indians, precursors to the Boy Scouts. At the time the tree was about 150 years old. Since then, it has gracefully lived through another 109 years while the organization it inspired has grown to have millions of members all over the world. Just imagine, our country did not even exist when it was planted in 1754!
Any one the characteristics of age, beauty or history witnessed would qualify this White Oak tree as a Landmark Tree. Summit maintains an official list of Landmark Trees and is fortunate to count a handful of stately (and very old) White Oak trees, some with trunks that are over 40 inches in diameter, among its Landmark Trees.
You may surmise that Summit’s Village Green is the home of several of its Landmark Trees – like the beautiful Red Oak on the eastern edge of the Green near Summit Avenue. You also may guess, correctly, that Reeves-Reed Arboretum houses a few more Landmark Trees – like the massive European Copper Beech that dominates the southwestern corner of the Arboretum’s gardens and is aptly known as the “Elephant Tree,” and the rare Franklin tree, with its striped bark and its beautiful fall foliage. But many of you would be amazed to discover that Summit only has about 30 Landmark Trees and that the majority of Summit’s Landmark Trees live alongside our homes; you may have one in your own front or back yard.
Summit is proud to have been a Tree City for sixteen consecutive years. This is a designation given by the National Arbor Day Foundation to a select number of cities in the United States that help preserve the beauty of their tree canopies, and we work hard to keep this designation because it helps Summit access grant money to keep it beautiful and lush. A bird’s eye view of Summit using Google Earth shows an extensive, healthy canopy. This is not accidental. Summit has a City Forester, dedicated personnel within the Department of Community Services, and a committee of appointed volunteers (the Shade Tree Advisory Committee) who regularly work to ensure that Summit continues to have a healthy tree canopy.
You can help us in this effort. First of all, take care of the trees on your property and think twice about whether a tree really needs to be cut down, or just trimmed; feel free to contact the City Forester for a professional opinion on this point. Second, plant more trees – the tree section of the Arbor Day website provides helpful information (and a quiz) to help you identify the type of tree that you should plant.
Finally, help us identify the special trees in our community. Summit’s Shade Tree Advisory Committee currently is updating the City’s inventory of Landmark Trees. Once completed, we plan to post this list on the City’s website, with pictures of these special trees. If you think that you have a special tree on your property, please contact the City Forester at 908-273-6404.
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.