There they were along the riverbank, stacked in the brush parallel to the river: shade tree saplings embedded in mulch bases.
Forty-two, to be precise. A Belleville man who had been walking his two dogs in the Lyndhurst section of Bergen County Riverside Park pointed them out last Friday.
“Three weeks ago, I counted 74,” the former landscaper said. “And there may have been more. I heard that someone came with a pickup truck and carted off one or more.”
Where had they come from?
Township Commissioner Matthew Ruzzo, public works director, had the answer. “We placed them there,” he said. “Back in 2011 or 2012, before I became the director, someone ordered something like 150, 175 trees. The county allowed us to use the park as a staging area.”
But after Super Storm Sandy hit the area, “there was an overflow of sewage and the chemicals from the [Passaic] River killed them,” Ruzzo said. “We also lost a couple of trees [DPW] had planted on Peabody [Ave.]”
DPW Superintendent Rich Gress concurred, adding that he saw no way to plant these trees on sidewalks anywhere in the township. “I’m not going to put contaminated trees in front of somebody’s house. I couldn’t do that in good conscience.”
As to why the discarded trees have been stashed away and apparently forgotten since 2012, no one had an answer but Ruzzo thanked The Observer for bringing it to his attention. He pledged that, after the Independence Day holiday, he would see to it that those trees were removed from the park. And he would check to see if, in fact, any could be salvaged.
– Ron Leir