Tree seedlings given out to replace those destroyed by Sandy

Tree seedlings are small — about a foot high — but eventually they’ll tower over people.

“They grow and give us shade. They’re cool in the summer and they’re just awesome,” said Eatontown resident Lisa Tungrain.

The seedlings distributed at a recent event in Eatontown are just a small sample of the 60,000 free tree seedlings provided by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry. The New Jersey Tree Recovery Campaign is a coordinated effort of the New Jersey Forest Service, the Arbor Day Foundation and other partners.

“Right after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, the Arbor Day Foundation out of Nebraska contacted us and they wanted to do something for the homeowners of New Jersey who lost trees, so we entered in a partnership with them where they would pay for 500,000 seedlings over a five-year period,” said Mike Vorwerk, nursery manager for the DEP Forest Service Nursery. “We have extended that. We are now in our sixth year and by the end of this spring we will have distributed over 600,000. They are looking for corporate sponsors and possibility of extending it to a seventh year.”

The seedlings, which are grown at the New Jersey Forest Service Nursery, are available at nearly 120 distribution sites. There are more than 30 different species of trees. New Jersey residents are eligible to receive bundles of five seedlings.

“You can’t go wrong with free trees,” said Eatontown resident William Skidmore.

The Eatontown Shade Tree Commission helped to coordinate the event. There are 850 seedlings available, 13 different species and they’re going fast. In less than an hour, about 100 people came to pick up their seedlings.

“Trees produce oxygen, they take pollutants out of the air, they add to our property values,” said Robert Wolfe, chair of the Eatontown Shade Tree Commission.

“When I grew up, there were just practically trees everywhere and now there’s a lot of development so it’s nice that we can put our trees back where some of the development had been,” said Eileen Cooper, project manager for the Eatontown Shade Tree Commission.

Tungrain is looking forward to watching the trees grow on her property.

“Especially after the last couple of years with the hurricanes and Superstorm Sandy, we’re able to get back where we were,” Tungrain said.

“Nobody knows how many trees we lost because of Superstorm Sandy — it was probably millions. We’re just trying to get some of those trees on the landscape in New Jersey,” Vorwerk said.

The campaign will run through May 5.

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