“We’re gonna talk to them!” says Robert Preston, Atlantic City’s interim planning director, when I ask him how the city is going to make sure 45 young trees survive planting in Uptown Park.
One of the side effects of being a city that is constantly in the cross hairs of some or other developer is that the city is a sort of mausoleum to dying and dead landscaping. The buildings go up, the trees go in, the ribbon is cut, and then everyone forgets about watering the plants. There’s probably a metaphor there somewhere.
Preston says this particular project is different. It’s all about the trees, for one thing. The 45 trees to be planted in Uptown Park are funded by a grant from TD Bank and the Arbor Day Foundation to the New Jersey Tree Foundation. Uptown Park was chosen after the NJ Tree Foundation’s Beth Kwart approached the city council and the Atlantic City Shade Tree Committee to find a suitable spot. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds: Atlantic City’s salty, windy air and hot summers are not tree friendly.
“This is a very difficult environment for deciduous trees,” Preston says. Uptown Park, which stretches alongside a school and is used for summer sports programs, has irrigation. That will help. Preston also says he expects Kwart will call him every week to ask about the trees.
“We’ve been out here multiple times, walking the site, looking at the plants, trying to figure out what’s going on,” says Preston. “This area over here, just the way its graded, there’s more water that pools here. So we’ve put trees there that can handle more moist conditions.”
Kwart says it was a challenge to find different species that are hardy to Atlantic City’s tough conditions. Frank Battaglia of the Shade Tree Committee says that the recommendation is not to have any one species make up more than 10 percent of the total planted. So there are dog wood, elms, species of oak and more going in.
Kwart assembles an assorted bunch of bank tellers, two Atlantic City Councilmen, one mayor, a school principal and three classes of kindergartners. The kids recite a poem about an apple tree and hold up pictures of trees with their names on.
Then they go back to school and the bankers get to work digging holes for trees.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the value of the grant received.