A Union City activist believes that the trees in a local park are in need of attention and they’re not getting it.
Washington Park, on the border of Jersey City and Union City on Paterson Plank Road, bursts with sycamore trees, chestnut oaks, and elms. The United States lost many elm trees in the 1940s due to Dutch elm disease, a tree fungus. So it is rare to see as many tall elm trees as there are in Washington Park, says Tony Squire, a resident and former educational park ranger in New York City. But some of the trees in the park are in poor health and need attention, Squire says.
“Exposing the maintenance problems in Union City’s Washington Park is not about casting blame.” – Tony Squire
A walk through the park
Squire said most of the trees are sycamores that date back to the 1930s, and many have dead, leafless limbs, or rotting trunks. During bad weather, the branches snap.
In fact, a tree in the park fell down on Wednesday night during a brief rainstorm.
In addition, he said, “Recently the last standing Norway Maple on Palisade Avenue was removed by the county’s Department of Forestry because it was dead. At one time there was a row of maple trees that ran along the cement retaining wall of the Little League field. A series of PVC drain pipes form a course within the wall and during heavy rain the grassy border becomes water-logged because the soil cannot drain fast enough.” This water-logged soil is what caused the eventual rotting of the roots of the Norway Maple, causing the tree to eventually die, he said.
“Around the same time, a large dead sycamore branch hovered above the entrance to the Washington Park Soccer Field. It is part of a line of trees facing New York Avenue that have … limbs and branches [that] are dead,” he said.
Squire said he posted signs in the park warning people that these dead branches were dangerous and people should use caution until park workers remove them. He said the branches were pruned after a few weeks.
Waiting for improvements
Washington Park is maintained by the county, although the city leases a section of it for a dollar.
In a Union City commissioners meeting on July 5, the council voted to introduce a bond ordinance authorizing various capital improvements and capital equipment for improvements to various parks, including revitalizing play surfaces and pools.
The future of the park
“This spring and early summer has shown an increased police presence in the park with both county sheriff and Union City police vehicles patrolling the park through the day and evening,” said Squire, noting that there are various aspects of the park that could use improvement.
“Preliminary action must begin with the highest priority problems such as gaps in chain-link fences and broken pathways,” he said. “Last month near the Jersey City side of Washington Park a pothole [was] filled in and two limbs cut off of a sycamore trees, but this is not enough as it is a spot treatment. A pressing matter is to have the trees in Washington Park inspected and whenever necessary proper steps taken to save the tree or remove it if it clearly cannot be saved.”
He added, “Exposing the maintenance problems in Union City’s Washington Park is not about casting blame on park workers or taking a shot at a particular political leader. It is about focusing on concrete actions.”
There are various other activities and debates going on in the park.
The Washington Park Association of Hudson County currently tends a living garden at the park, which they utilize to grow plants with the assistance of local kids and adults. The association received a grant earlier this year from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to install a gardening apprentice program, which is focused on educating the community about preparing land for sustainable living and growing crops.
The Sierra Club, a national organization that seeks to influence public policy from the state to national level, in conjunction with the Washington Park Association, recently opposed a county proposal to expand the current Cal Ripken Field at the park.
In a letter to the paper, they stated, “The Sierra Club agrees with local park advocates and residents that Union City’s planned expansion of Cal Ripken Baseball Field in Washington Park violates both the letter and the spirit of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and its Green Acres Program.”
They objected to potentially losing park space and trees if the field expands.
Santo Sanabria may be reached at SSanabria@hudsonreporter.com.