Atlantic City’s trees, which already contend with hurricanes, salt water, pollution, icy winters and scorching concrete, are now also showing wear and tear as a result of the city’s financial crisis and its haphazard patchwork of planning rules.
Since the Public Works department’s budget was slashed amid city-wide cuts, there are fewer people on hand to prune, water and care for the city’s greenery. Now, damaged trees are causing hazards and few replacement trees are being planted.
City trees matter because, as every elementary school kid knows, they give us oxygen. But they can also help increase property values, make a city more attractive and do useful things like provide shade and suck up storm-water runoff. The importance of having a so-called urban forest is part of state and city law. But no one really planned to fund that, even when the going was good at the northern end of Absecon Island.
Step in Atlantic City’s Shade Tree Committee, a small crew of volunteers led by former Atlantic City firefighter Bobby Greene, who put in time and effort to care for the city’s trees. Recently, the group pruned the trees around the Richmond Avenue school. The trees there are young and need more care than some of the city’s more established trees, Greene explained, on a tour around the city earlier this month.
The Committee, in partnership with volunteers from local schools and groups such as Atlantic City Electric, organizes activities for Arbor Day (the last Friday in April) and has been able to help out with some of the work that previously was done by the city.