Autumn arrives and we relive past Arbor Days

Highway & Thomas 10-31-16
Highway & Thomas 10-31-16

tree-city-logo1Arbor Day falls on the last Friday of April every year.

Riverton earned its Tree City designation over 27 years ago on Arbor Day, April 28, 1989, as the result of efforts by some dedicated tree huggers.

Then Shade Tree Commission Member Nancy Washington explained why.

To get the circumference, of course, for the tree census.

Commission Chair Mr. Barry Emens and his fellow commissioners had previously measured each one of them and noted their condition as part of the task of applying to the Arbor Day Foundation for the Tree City title.

In marking the occasion that day, Mr. Emens addressed a group of k-5th grade Riverton School students on the Christ Episcopal Church lawn.

Mr. Emens enthusiastically listed some benefits of trees:

  • Trees give us a good feeling inside.
  • They keep the noise down.
  • They keep your parents’ fuel bills down.
  • They increase property values.

The kids cheered when Emens announced they would each get a white pine seedling.

Music teacher Naomi Horn directed students in singing “Arbor Day, Sweet Arbor Day” to the tune of “O Christmas Tree.”

Raise your hand, kids, if you witnessed an Arbor Day tree planting. Or maybe you planted one of those tree seedlings.

One of our town’s trees has even been to outer space.

Well, at least its seed was in space.

Space Shuttle White Pine plaque, 2018
Space Shuttle White Pine tree, 2018

During another Arbor Day assembly in 2011, the borough received a white pine grown from seeds flown aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997. Riverton’s new tree was on display in a planter in the school gymnasium before being planted in Riverton Memorial Park along the edge of the Pompeston Creek.

According to the Board’s current Tree Census, Riverton Borough has 2474 trees lining the streets & parks; that’s almost as many trees as its people population of 2,772 (2013). Over the years, Emens and company have succeeded in making Riverton home to a staggering 151 diverse tree species!

Show some love and give thanks for our own Tree City and the members of Riverton’s Shade Tree Board, still vigorously chaired by Barry Emens for over 30 years, by taking a photo and posting it to FB or Instagram, or send in an attachment to

Did you know the creation of Riverton’s Shade Tree Commission followed the presentation of an illustrated lecture (probably in 1908) at the Porch Club? See a description of the Porch Club’s early years in this July 1911 issue of Suburban Life, and about that 1908 lecture in this excerpt from Jersey City’s Evening Journal, May 4, 1908, p5.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 29, 1989, pB3
Added 10-13-16: A great friend of the HSR, Gary Weart, contributes over 30 autumn pix, but you need to visit Facebook to see them.

One less tree in Tree City

town tree near Cedar Street 1
town tree near Cedar Street 1

I was at work (my excuse for infrequent posts this summer) when one of our  stringers, Susan Dechnik, sent me a text message:

“An enormous tree fell, just missing my house. If you aren’t at work you might want a pic. It’s a town tree, mr. Edmonds says…”

Don’t you love autocorrect? That had to be Barry Emens. Mr. Emens is the authority on all things of the arbor variety since he is chairperson of Riverton’s Shade Tree Board.

I wrote back:

“If you get any more details or take photos pls forward. I will try to post them.”

town tree near Cedar Street 2
town tree near Cedar Street 2

Susan lost several shrubs when the tree fell, but she managed to save three cucumbers, two tomatoes, and one black swallowtail caterpillar from the wreckage.

Later, she confirmed with Barry Emens that the black oak tree was the biggest town tree in Riverton.

At right, you see May Tree Service cutting up and hauling off the fallen tree. Part of it remained standing.

The preliminary forensic examination shows that the tree fell about 12:30 a.m. September 16 because it had rotted inside and was not due to storm damage.

There is a flattened garden under that fallen tree.
There is a flattened garden under that fallen tree.

tree-city-logo[1]This whole episode gave me reason to check out the Shade Tree Board’s page on the Borough website. Clearly, Riverton is a place that takes its trees seriously. The National Arbor Day Foundation has recognized Riverton as a “TREE CITY USA” for the past 25 years.

Among other things, the Shade Tree Board conducts a census of our trees to tell us the species, location, size and health of each one in town.

The garden before the tree fell
The garden before the tree fell


So if we are keeping score, Riverton’s tree population of 2474 just diminished by one.


Lucky for Mrs. D that it was a town tree. It means that it is on town property so the removal will not be at her expense. It was fortunate, too, that it happened at night and not when she was out tending her beautiful garden.


True or false?

  • A homeowner may fertilize a tree at the curb.

    Tree City sign, Riverton Rd.
    Tree City sign, Riverton Rd.
  • It is OK to attach a ‘lost cat” sign or a yard sale to a tree advertising a yard sale to a tree in the park.
  • It is OK to plant a tree at the street to replace one that died without a permit.
Tree City sign on Broad near Nat'l Casein
Tree City sign on Broad near Nat’l Casein


We’ll make this easy. They are all false. Chapter 35 of the Borough of Riverton’s Tree Ordinances explaining the organization and function of the Shade Tree Board and the care and maintenance of town trees may make for dull reading, but the information you find there may answer some questions you may have about what one may do, or not do, regarding the trees at the street.


Tree city sign on Broad across from Stan's Auto
Tree City sign on Broad across from Stan’s Auto


It’s not all rules, though. There is a Homeowner’s Guide to Beautiful, Safe, and Healthy Trees in Riverton, and information on getting a federal tax deduction for making a donation for the purchase of new street trees and how to get free wood chip mulch.

DSC01009 (Copy)


According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, planting trees around your home doesn’t cost, it pays off in increased property values and lower fuel costs. Just seeing a tree can help reduce stress. And don’t forget all of those eco-science benefits you learned in junior high about absorbing carbon dioxide and pumping out oxygen.

There may be one less tree now in this Tree City, but it is good to know that the ones left are in good care. – Gaslight News editor, John McCormick