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"Going green" has some N.J. residents seeing red

June 1, 2009 3:36:06 PM PDT
Planting shade trees has led to anger, protest and one arrest in Hamilton Twp.

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"I said I don't want any and I wound up with two," said James Lombardi.

Lombardo is one of many township residents upset with the state for planting shade trees on their streets even though they don't want them.

"It uproots the sidewalk and everything else, and then you're responsible for it," said Lombardo. "They're telling me I'm not, but they won't put it in writing. I just don't want it. I should have the option of [not] having a tree there."

About 300 trees have been planted as part of a Department of Environmental Protection community forestry project to build up the tree canopy in developed areas.

But along Elmore Avenue, residents like Mary Kate Cammarata are worried not just about raking leaves, but what tree roots could do if they grow into the underground pipes.

"God forbid if anything happens with my water or gas line," she said. "I'm responsible for it? They're not going to come fix it. Or what if my sidewalk lifts?"

Cammarata is also concerned about the trees growing into utility lines. One resident was so upset he pulled a shotgun on the tree planting crew and was arrested.

"You spend a lot of time making properties nice and having it the way they want it and some stranger comes along and starts cutting cement and planting trees," said resident Virginia Urlick.

The DEP says its tree planting effort isn't just about aesthetics. There is an environmental reason behind it. At summer's peak, areas that have just a few or no trees at all can be up to 12 degrees hotter. Tree cover can cool that down considerably.

"I like the look of it," said resident Larry Urlick. "I think it makes the street look nice."

Still, some angry residents have even pulled trees out. But they have been told they could be fined and that the state will take soil samples from any damaged trees to make sure they are not being poisoned.

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