2011-05-11 / Front Page

A new tree grows in Freehold Twp.

Seedling from space shuttle helps town celebrate 30 years as Tree City USA
Staff Writer

Astronaut Gregory T. Linteris addresses the audience at the New Jersey state Arbor Day celebration in Freehold Township on April 29. A white pine tree that was grown from seeds that traveled on the space shuttle Columbia with Linteris in 1997 was planted at the Durand Park Memorial Arboretum during the event. 
JEFF GRANIT staff Astronaut Gregory T. Linteris addresses the audience at the New Jersey state Arbor Day celebration in Freehold Township on April 29. A white pine tree that was grown from seeds that traveled on the space shuttle Columbia with Linteris in 1997 was planted at the Durand Park Memorial Arboretum during the event. JEFF GRANIT staff FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Tree lovers from all over the state gathered at Durand Park MemorialArboretum on Randolph Road on April 29 to celebrate Arbor Day.

Freehold Township was given the honor of hosting the state’s annual celebration on the day it marked 30 years as a Tree City USA.

The township has long been concerned about tree conservation, having established a Shade Tree Commission on Dec. 12, 1962.

Folks came from all over to help the township celebrate this momentous accomplishment.

The event was held in cooperation with New Jersey Community Forestry Services Program and the New Jersey Tree Foundation. This is the first time Freehold Township has hosted the event, dubbed “Celebrating Community Forestry at Its Best!”

According to Shade Tree Commission Chairman George Klinger, the two-hour celebration began at 8 a.m. with over 100 volunteers planting over 100 shade and ornamental trees at the arboretum. The trees were supplied by the New Jersey Tree Foundation along with support and donations by individuals and local nurseries.

Klinger said thatmany people put in a great deal of time and effort to make it happen.

Klinger has been interested in caring for trees for the last 60 years and is a member of various national and international agencies that advocate for trees and the environment.

Klinger said he was awarded Volunteer of theYear from the Tree Care Industry Association (formerly the NationalArboristAssociation) for his volunteer work five years ago.

He was also awarded the Joyce Kilmer Award at this year’s Arbor Day celebration, sponsored by the New Jersey Forest Services, the New Jersey Community Forestry Council and the New Jersey Tree Foundation for his work with the Shade Tree Commission.

Klinger said he was honored when officials surprised him with his plaque. He admitted he “got a little choked up” when it was presented.

“That’s how much it touched me. It was spectacular,” he said.

On hand to celebrate the festivities were the Freehold Intermediate School Concert Band from Freehold Borough and the township’s Clifton T. Barkalow School Chorus and the Dwight D. Eisenhower School Band.

Local municipal and school officials were also in attendance to celebrate the occasion.

Singing the national anthem was Lianah Sta. Ana, from the Barkalow School Chorus. Mayor David Salkin characterized her performance as “amazing,” saying she sang the patriotic song as well as anyone he had ever heard.

Also on tap for the event was the Colorguard from the Marine Corps League Philip A. Reynolds Detachment 203, Freehold, and members of the VFW Freehold Post 4374.

But the most significant event of the special Arbor Day celebration was the appearance of astronaut Gregory T. Linteris, who helped plant a very special eastern white pine tree at the arboretum.

According to Salkin, the 8-foot white pine, now referred to as the “Space Shuttle White Pine,” was grown from a seedling that sprouted aboard the space shuttle Columbia flight in April 1997.

Linteris grew up in Demarest and when he was slated for the mission in 1997, he worked with the Demarest Shade Tree Commission to bring along the eastern white pine seeds on the flight. Salkin said Linteris, who was classified as a payload specialist, brought about 35 seeds, which traveled approximately 1.5 million miles in space. On returning to earth, the seeds were tended to and cared for by the New Jersey Forestry Service.

“This tree hold special significance to us, not just because the seeds traveled in space, but because just a few years later, the Columbia space shuttle broke up over Texas and we lost those seven astronauts,” Salkin said, adding that he believes this tree will help keep the memory alive of those seven crew members who lost their lives on the shuttle on Feb. 1, 2003.

Salkin said that the Arbor Day celebration was “one of the best days” he had spent as a Township Committee member.

Salkin has been a member of the Shade Tree Commission for about 15 years and remembers when the arboretum was a 100-acre open field.

“The arboretum was just a vision 10 years ago,” Salkin said.

Today, the arboretum is that beautiful vision finally coming to fruition.

Those tiny 2-inch trees planted years ago, now around 12 inches, coming to life mean a great deal to the mayor, and the members of the Shade Tree Commission, many who have been involved in the project from the beginning.

Salkin came across a great quote to explain the way he feels about the planting of trees.

“Optimism is planting a small tree that you may never be able to sit under.”

He also referenced the significance of ArborDay to residents. “Most of our holidays reflect on past events,” the mayor said. “But Arbor Day is one of the few holidays that focuses on the future.”

Salkin said the day was perfect.

“The weather was perfect. The arboreteum wasn’t all that impressive years ago, but it was wonderful to see how successful the arboretum project has become. Then again, you can’t rush trees growing. It requires diligence and patience.”

The mayor thanked all members of the commission for their dedication and work, especially Klinger.

The Shade Tree Commission is a group of resident volunteers appointed to five-year terms by the Township Committee.

The commission is headed by Klinger. Thomas Ritchie is vice chairman. Other members of the commission in addition to Salkin are Michael Alvarado, Jeanne Patterson, Nancy Macneill, William Brash, Gregory Hanley and Tara McQuade.

Salkin said that the arboretum is part of the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), which provides federal funds to plant little bluestem and big bluestem warm season grasses.

Salkin said these grasses provide welcome refuge for migratory birds and ground animals. The grasses are very low maintenance and low cost for the township and are also good for the environment, he said.

Commenting on the talk given by Linteris, Salkin noted that the astronaut told attendees that “every astronaut who has traveled in space comes back an environmentalist.”

Salkin said that the astronaut explained that once a person has been in space with all that cold, black, desolate darkness, one truly appreciates the vast beauty of the earth.

“Mr. Linteris said that seeing the Earth from space is nothing short of heartbreaking. That’s how beautiful it is,” the mayor said.

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