Matawan celebrates Arbor Day by planting a Royal Elm tree named ‘Hope’

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MATAWAN – An art teacher from Ravine Drive Elementary School in Matawan has inspired her 350 elementary-age students to recognize the beauty and benefits of trees.

In honor of Arbor Day, officials from the Shade Tree Commission planted a Royal Elm tree outside of the borough’s municipal complex in a ceremony on April 26.

The Shade Tree Commission is an organization dedicated to maintaining the health of trees owned by the borough.

Joined by members of the community and Matawan council members, Councilman David Vergaretti read the Arbor Day proclamation to a small gathering of environmentally conscious individuals.

Jeanine Liguori, an art teacher at the elementary school, said she previously asked her pupils to draw pictures of trees and “tell me what is important about a tree in your town.”

She said some students “drew pictures of treehouses and some kids had pictures of themselves planting trees.”

The children’s artistic renditions of greenery is on display in the municipal building, Liguori said.

Employees at Borough Hall selected their favorite pictures from each grade level at the elementary school, which educates children in kindergarten through third grade.

The names of the four young winners – Theodore Zhang, Kindergarten; Julia Bleszynski, First Grade; Lila Irizarry, Second Grade; and Ariannis Villa, Third Grade – were engraved on a plaque in the moltch beneath the Royal Elm tree planted that day.

Liguori said the pupils named the tree “Hope,” a tradition which began in 2018 when Charlotte Wieczorek, who was a fifth grade student at Lloyd Road Elementary School in Matawan, asked Mayor Joseph Altomonte to name the town’s newest Red Elm tree “Blossom.”

“(The Shade Tree Commission)  planted a Royal Elm tree this year so (the students and I) were thinking about majesty,”  Liguori said. “Then we decided to talk about why trees are important. We came up with the name Hope,” Liguori said.

“Hope” was planted next to “Blossom.”

“(Liguori) has inspired the kids … We couldn’t have done this without her help,” Vergaretti said.

In a subsequent interview with Matthew Schoffel, chairman of the Matawan Shade Tree Commission, Schoffel said Matwan has recently achieved Tree City USA status.

To acquire Tree City USA status, a community must meet four standards in order to participate in the program. Participation requires the maintenance of a tree board or department, a community tree ordinance, a minimum of 2 dollars per capita spending on urban forestry and the town must annually celebrate Arbor Day, according to Schoffel.

“New Jersey is 40% percent forest. That (percentage) is higher than most states. We want to maintain (forestry) because trees are always being taken down for development. We are trying to keep up. Every time we plant a tree, you are replacing one that comes down. It helps,” Schoffel said.