Oct. 29, 2014
Dan Salvante, Director
Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs
It was good to hear at our October 8th meeting that the County is embarking on a restoration plan for the illegally clear cut areas behind 20 and 16 Woodcrest Avenue in Short Hills. As requested, please send the Conservancy the replanting/restoration plan and its estimated cost. The Conservancy is interested in ensuring it is consistent with the requirements set forth by David Smith of the NJ DEP earlier this year and the cumulative tree damage we have estimated.
The Conservancy has estimated (as indicated in June 6th e-mail sent to you) that approximately 24 trees averaging 14 inches in diameter were removed. These trees represent a loss of 153.9 sq. inches per tree DBH, or a cumulative loss of 3,694 sq. inches. Based on the attached estimates of invasive species and those in poor health in a nearby area (see attached) for the NJ American Water project at Glen Avenue, we can assume 56 percent of these trees require valid replacement, or 2,068.9 inches. (Unfortunately, no trees behind the Woodcrest Ave. homes remain to allow a comparable assessment.)
Based on the NJAW replacement costs of $109,150 for a loss of 1,333.73 sq. inches, we estimate the fines for this area should be levied at $169,315. The County counsel, Mr. Paganelli, should be apprised of this.
Based on the net lost tree DBH basal area, calculated above, the County would need to plant 421 2-1/2 inch diameter trees, a number obviously far in excess of what can be accommodated. Therefore, we fear that your planned restoration will install just a few dozen small trees costing far less than the $169,315. If this is indeed the case, it would be unacceptable. Replacing 14-inch diameter trees with 2 1/2 or even 4 inch trees (which apparently do not survive as well as the smaller ones) does not reflect the damage actually done to the SMR’s established forest. In addition, suing for a minimal amount will not serve as an example and deterrent for other current and future violators of public park land. The County did not allow the water company to shortchange taxpayers, nor should it do so now.
Therefore, irrespective of the anticipated restoration cost, we strongly urge (and hope the NJ DEP concurs) that the County sue for the entire $169,315. Once there is payment by the responsible parties, the funds in excess of the actual costs should be placed in an account held by the County or the NJ DEP for regeneration projects in the SMR. This account should also include the $110,000 from the NJAW project that, apparently, went to Green Acres. This can be used for repairing and maintaining the fences of the 42 regeneration sites in the SMR (as you explained budget constraints has delayed fence repair from Superstorm Sandy until this fall) and ongoing planting in the sites.
We recommend that the planting decisions over the next few years be informed by the ecological assessment of all the sites now being completed by Michael Van Clef, PhD., for the County. We appreciate your willingness and foresight to fund this study in order to ensure that the $1 million in Green Acres and Essex County Open Space funds invested in SMR regeneration six years ago can meet its long-term goals.
Chair, Board of Trustees
South Mountain Conservancy