Keeping Westfield 'Green'
Wednesday, September 25, 2013 • 9:37pm
One of the reasons people move to Westfield is the beauty of our tree-lined streets. When they fall and knock out our power we have other feelings, but the tree-lined streets and the old-growth trees in our backyards help create the Westfield look and feel. We all know that trees help maintain our property values and attract new residents to buy homes in Westfield. Unfortunately, Westfield has not done enough to preserve, maintain and replace trees, perhaps because the public relations value of doing so will not be realized until a long time from now.
In Superstorm Sandy it was said the town lost 1,000 trees. And we have lost countless more over the past 15 years. Unfortunately, when developers build new housing, too often preserved shade trees are likely to die within a few years because of damage done to their roots during construction even though this violates our laws. More and more, the “Y” or “Sling Shot” look is taking over in some streets because the trees selected for planting did not take into account the overhead wires.
Because these problems are not simple to deal with, we need the vision in Town Hall to start the process now by taking advantage of State funding to create a town plan without adding significant costs to our budget. This is the kind of action our town government can take even in these difficult economic times. Sadly, like the case of refusing to do a free energy audit, our current mayor does not rank beautifying the environment very high on the agenda
Westfield needs to develop a Community Forestry Maintenance Plan. Grants, called green communities grants, are available for developing a plan from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Our matching contribution to obtain the grant can be in the form of volunteer time. According to the DEP, such plans often lead to “increased community safety, lower tree hazard problems, decreased tree maintenance and removal costs, [because they] develop a proactive, not reactive approach to tree/forest management.”
Developing a plan has important benefits. It is the first step toward achieving exemption from tree related lawsuits under NJ shade tree laws. It also lets Westfield apply for other grants from the state that would allow us to assess tree health and hazard as well as plant trees.
While this is a good start, we also need a plan to encourage residents who lose trees to voluntarily plant the right mix of trees which can make a difference in 15, 20, or 50 years and that will eventually take their place among our most stately assets.
Ongoing leadership in the town on these programs must come from the tree preservation commission. Regrettably, under our current mayor, the commission hasn’t even met in three years. In contrast as your mayor I promise that town commissions and boards like this one will have people appointed to them without regard to political party that have interest and expertise enough to lead the town in this area.
Our stock of old-growth shade trees in Westfield is one of our town’s important assets. It helps give us our unique Westfield feel. It’s part of why we live here. We should make certain, as stewards of the town, that this asset is properly managed, developed and supported so that future generations will be attracted to beautiful Westfield as much as we are today.
I am asking for your vote this November. To find out more about our campaign please go to our facebook page, www.facebook.com/Davehaas4mayor, or our website, http://davehaas4mayor.com.