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NJ Town Debates Tree Fund

Whether money set aside for trees should be used to expand sports facilities and irrigation systems is a hot topic in one New Jersey town.

The mayor, council and environmental commission in Washington Township, N.J. are divided over whether a fund designated for the replacement of trees mowed down by development should be used for the construction of sports fields.

The main sticking point was that one ordinance broadened the permitted use of the tree fund--which developers pay into rather than plant trees displaced by their project on site--to expressly include the instillation of sports fields such as those for soccer, football and baseball, as well as irrigation systems for those fields.

“In a town where thousands of children are playing sports, where sports is the social fabric of town, a field with grass should qualify,” said Mayor Paul Moriarty, adding that the township needs several more soccer fields alone to meet the needs of its recreation programs.

While the township has a separate recreation fund for the construction of sports facilities, it only applies to residential projects, which have become increasingly scarce in recent years due to a dearth of available land.

The tree fund now holds approximately $50,000, officials said, but projects can inject it with hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of trees affected.

Citing research by state environmental associations, environmental commission Chair Ann Culkin said no tree ordinance in the state is used for a purpose other than trees and shrubs.

Source: Gloucester County Times

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October 19, 2019, 8:14 am PDT

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