Shade Tree Commission
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Planting of trees along the streets in Ridgewood began with the arrival of the first commuters and was a voluntary community effort until the Shade Tree Commission was established by statute in Ridgewood in 1909. From 1912-1916 the Commission planted 1400 new trees along 8 miles of streets, including oaks, lindens, and Norway maples. “The thoughtful citizen will realize and appreciate what an increasingly valuable asset these trees will become to the Village and how great a part they will play in making our ‘Ridgewood Beautiful’.” In the early years the cost of the planting of a new tree was assessed each property owner. The cost of continuing care was borne by the Shade Tree Commission. Planting of trees in the Village was considered essential to the development of the town. "Trees are more indispensable to the beautifying of a city than architecture of the most aesthetic design…And the trees of this village are one of the first of its features to impress the stranger with the desirability of Ridgewood as a place of residence." (Quotes from Ridgewood Past and Present, 1916)
In 1952 the Commission was made a village department (now Department of Parks and Recreation) and had 20 full time employees including 3 certified tree experts. Between 1911 and 1965, 26,000 trees had been planted. The department also maintained a nursery, growing 17 different species of trees. (New York Times, 2/28/1965) By 1970 most of the Village lots had been built on and many of the trees planted in previous decades were now mature.
However, after 90 years it is not surprising that our modern way of life does no favor to the forefathers' vision. Cement, electric wires, cable boxes, transformers, chemicals, poor maintenance, not to mention drought and severe weather patterns have resulted in our damaged vistas. ... "For almost two years a small subcommittee of residents has been researching state and national tree policies and ordinances. Thus far, they have found that we must go back to our original attitude that serious tree care, better communication and education are keys to a revitalized streetscape." (Message to Wildscape members, 1/28/2013)