Growing a greener town



By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Trees and scouts: perfect together.

So it would appear, judging from the partnership of the Kearny Department of Public Works and Cub Pack/ Troop 305, Boy Scouts of America, in a tree planting organized as part of the town’s annual Arbor Day observance.

And, not to forget a singular contribution made by a particular member of Troop 305, (based out of St. Stephen’s Parish), who did a survey of trees on town-owned properties in the Third Ward last summer. More on that – plus a related endeavor – later.

First things first: As explained by DPW Director Gerry Kerr, “Every year around this time, we try to get local organizations involved in a tree planting to celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day to encourage community involvement for a greener town.”

(By the way, Kearny has been designated a national Tree City for the past 36 years so that must prove something about its dedication to beneficial forestry. Yes, we know about the thinning out of part of the Manor section by some 20 trees this past fall but that was recommended as a safety move by an agronomist.)

Recalling that the scouts of St. Stephen’s were eager volunteers for the recent Passaic River cleanup project, Kerr reached out to Scout Committee Chairman Tom Gingerelli for an assist from his boys and they readily agreed.

So, on April 21, Kerr picked an appropriate planting spot in Riverbank Park, along Passaic Ave., just north of the Columbus Day memorial statute, and the paired DPW crew and five scouts (Jason Gingerelli, Joseph Pepe and Logan Pepe, all from the pack, and Tom Gingerelli and John Dec, both from the troop) set to work. “My guys dug the hole and the scouts helped with repacking the soil around the tree and applying mulch,” Kerr said. “Then my guys finished with putting in stakes and ‘gator’ or water bags that keep the planting moist.”

The project took only about 30 minutes to complete but that just goes to show how efficiently it was prepped.

Kerr described the new planting, purchased from Terry Nursery of Clifton, as a “good, hardy white oak – the kind of tree more suitable to a park and one that will produce a nice canopy effect.”

Planted at a height of 6 feet, it is expected to grow to 30 to 40 feet at full maturity, Kerr said. How long will that take? “I don’t think I’ll be around to see that,” he quipped.

Scout Chairman Gingerelli pointed out this hasn’t been the only community project in which many of his 61 scouts have participated this year. They’ve volunteered at the Kearny Community Garden, ran their own personal river cleanup project on Sept. 7 and on April 6, 22 scouts collected 11,000 non-perishable food items from donors at ShopRite, Seabra’s and Wal-Mart which they distributed to four local food pantries.

Last summer, Ken Lindenfelser, 18, a member of the same St. Stephen’s scouts unit which he joined at age 7, contributed to the cause of preserving Nature by leading a small group of scouts and friends on a mission suggested by Kerr: rating the health of the street trees spread among the town’s Third Ward where he lives. It was considered particularly useful since, as Lindenfelser noted, the weather conditions from the winter and Sandy had degraded many of the trees.

Not that Lindenfelser, now a freshman at Loyola University Maryland leaning to a major in biology, was an expert in forestry. “Gerry told me what to look for as signs of a diseased tree,” he explained. Of the 1,377 trees his team counted, they found “a few” dead but, of the rest, most were in the “1 to 3 range, with 1 being the best and 5 the worst, he said.

In recognition of the project he led, Lindenfelser will be honored as an Eagle Scout, as will Troop 305 member Nick Fabricatore, who led 15 colleagues on a four-day project re-doing hand railings around St. Stephen’s Church and repainting the parish garage. Fabricatore, 18, in scouting since he was five, now serves now as an assistant scoutmaster. He’s in his second semester at Essex County Community College and focused on music. He sings and plays guitar as a solo act and he performed recently at Michael’s Rosscommon House in Belleville.

Final note on trees: Kerr said his department will be planting 50 new street trees around town this spring. “We’ll try to plant in those locations where we’ve removed trees but in those instances, we have to wait for the remaining stump to decay before we plant. Residents with tree requests can call the DPW at 201-998- 3700 or email me at”

For those new plantings, Kerr said he’s ordered 10 Ruby Slippers (a type of maple), 10 Pyramidal European Hornbeams, 10 Columnar Cherrys, 10 Crimson Pointe Plums and 10 Japanese Tree Lilacs (similar to the trees prevalent on Kearny Ave.).

All should grow to a height of 20 to 25 feet over a period of years and are designed to provide shade, he said.

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