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Jun 23, 2021

Fair Haven Tree Wins Third Place in New Jersey Big Tree Hunt

From left: Bonnie Torcivia, Fair Haven Councilwoman Laline Neff, Fair Haven Parks and Recreation Director D.J. Breckenridge, Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli, Wendy Murphy, Diana Landreth, Sarah Fleming, Fair Haven Shade Tree Committee Member Andrea Reid, Robbyn O'Neill, Heather Robinson and Fair Haven Councilwoman Elizabeth Koch

On a rainy June morning, six members of Rumson Garden Club’s conservation book club gathered to cheer on fellow RGC member Wendy Murphy as she and the Fair Haven Borough–on behalf of a tulip tree–received a third-place award from Joseph C. Bennett, New Jersey Forestry’s Big and Heritage Tree Coordinator, Division of Parks and Forestry, Community Forestry Program.

The genesis of this deep interest in trees arose when the pandemic hit last year. Rumson Garden Club, a member club of The Garden Club of America, formed a virtual book club focusing on conservation topics. Meeting through Zoom, they discussed topics ranging from how to positively affect local communities and the environment to how they could raise awareness about the value of native plants, trees, and the healing power of spending time in nature, even if in one’s own backyard.

When Rumson’s Environmental Council promoted a new statewide Big Tree Hunt, RGC members grabbed their measuring tapes and went in search of the largest tree. Three RGC members, all of whom reside in Fair Haven, contacted the Borough’s Shade Tree Commission to encourage participation. The trio spent a full day searching for trees to measure and nominate. Murphy identified a tulip tree in the Williams, Albert, and RobardsPark on DeNormandie Avenue, which is estimated to be more than 100 years old.

“The tree looks like it wants to tell you its story, of what it has witnessed on the banks of the Navesink River,” Murphy said.

The tree sits on the site of the former home of Charles Williams and his family. According to a plaque at the park, Williams was a free black man, who was in charge of maintaining horses at Rohallion Estate in Rumson and was gifted the land by his employer as a wedding present. The house that formerly stood on the property was constructed in 1853 by Williams, and the property remained in the family for more than 150 years. Over those years, the family allowed all who came to the property’s shore to utilize their beach. It is in that spirit that the land was preserved and protected to allow free and open access to the beautiful Navesink River.

As a result of Murphy’s efforts, the tulip tree now is recognized as a SignatureTree on the New Jersey Big Tree Registry.