By KELY NICHOLAIDES
for Montclair Local
As the township is about to sign a new contract for arborist services, a Montclair Environmental Commission (MEC) member is advocating for improvements to the town’s tree management.
MEC member Suzanne Aptman also questioned the mayor and council about the arborist’s role over tree plantings and removal, replacement rates and decision making. The governing body is scheduled to sign a contract with RichView Consulting on April 23. The company will provide services but will not be an employee of the town. Aptman asked if the previous arborist Steve Schuckman’s plan would be reviewed, how much authority RichView Consulting would have, and whether the company will consider treatment of ash trees as opposed to removal due to the emerald ash borer. Montclair became the first Essex County town invaded by the insect in 2017.
“We are treating our ash trees on Westview Road as a pilot program. The [previous] arborist felt that the ash borer had not done enough damage to those trees for removal,” Aptman said.
Regarding replanting, Aptman asked if the town can increase plantings, as well as use plant native species to provide ecological value for pollinators. She noted that some towns plant decorative trees that are not native to the environment where they are grown.
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The Shade Tree department issues permits for cutting down trees. Montclair has a one-to-one ratio for tree replacement. Aptman asked if the ratio can be increased for the replacement and asked the town about following up to ensure replacement trees are planted.
Township Manager Tim Stafford said that tree decisions regarding ratios and replantings are subject to budget issues, as well as the arborist’s analysis.
“The township [mayor and council] has final say, but we are going to be using the services of an expert who will advise us,” Stafford said.
Under a $7,234,899 capital improvements bond ordinance Montclair passed on April 2, $100,500 was dedicated to tree plantings.
RichView Consulting is owned by Richard Wolowicz, whose arboricultural career spans 30 years and encompasses municipal and utility experience. Wolowicz is a graduate of Cook College, Rutgers University, the company web site shows. He is a licensed, certified tree expert, ISA certified arborist, Vice President of the NJ Board of Tree Experts and board member of the NJ Shade Tree Federation, among other notable credentials and professional affiliations.
Some of the company’s current clients include Glen Ridge, Morristown, Union City, Glen Rock, Hanover, Kearny, Bogota, Morris County and Madison. Glen Ridge has a Shade Tree Commission and approximately 3,700 trees on public land. “Yet this valuable asset is in decline with nearly 60 trees dying and being removed each year. Faced with an aging tree population, a Maple dominant monoculture subject to pests and disease related problems, and severely constrained planting strips between the road and sidewalks, we face a sizable challenge to ensure that the beauty of Glen Ridge is maintained for future generations,” the town’s website reads.
Glen Ridge’s Shade Tree Commission compiles a list of private trees in a “Nominate Your Notable Tree” form online.
Montclair’s five-year Community Forestry Management Plan, approved in 2015, aims to guard against weather-related disasters and protect the town’s treescape. The plan, approved by the New Jersey State Forestry Service, allows Montclair to apply for grants like the Community Stewardship Incentive Program to pay for some inventory costs and earn points under the Sustainable Jersey program. The annual budget allocated to the Shade Tree Management Program for tree care was $277,100, with $50,000 for arborist consulting, $50,000 for tree plantings and $100,000 for tree removal services. At the time, Montclair aimed to plant 300-500 trees a year.
The number of trees on public land in Montclair is not listed, although establishing an inventory was a goal of the 2015 plan Tree plantings, however, have increased. In Spring 2018, 332 trees were planted but Montclair saw a higher than typical 8 to 10 percent loss, due to a combination of scorching summer temperatures and lack of water. Montclair officials could not provide the exact number of trees or percentage that were lost last year. Another 150 trees were approved for planting that autumn.