Getting rid of your Christmas tree?
Now it can go to a good cause.
Princeton resident April Readlinger is spearheading a local effort to collect old trees and take them to the Jersey Shore where they will be used to rebuild dunes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
The project started about a week ago, after Readlinger saw a Facebook post about Berkeley resident Dominick Solazzo’s initiative to stack old Christmas trees along a one-third mile stretch of beach at the south end of South Seaside Park, a section of Berkeley Township located just south of Seaside Park Borough. Solazzo is a member of the board of directors of a homeowners' association there.
Readlinger shared Solazzo’s efforts on her Facebook page and offered to pick up trees locally and drive them to the shore.
The results were overwhelming.
Readlinger and her sister, Allison Kruchkowski of Tewksbury, spent last weekend collecting about 80 trees at various homes in and around Princeton. They made two trips to the shore, using a truck donated by Scaffolding Towers of America in Middlesex.
“I saw this as an opportunity to help in a different way,” said Readlinger, who no longer commutes to work in New York and now has time for some volunteer activities.
“I grew up at the Jersey shore,” she said. “We would go down every weekend. My in-laws live there. It was just such an important place to me growing up, it’s important to me now. I expect my kids will go there all the time.”
Due to the overwhelming response, Readlinger can no longer pick up individual trees, but she has arranged for drop off points: Shady Brook Farm in Yardley, Pa. and at the Joseph H. Maher Jr. Ecological Center on Princeton Pike in Lawrence Township.
Best of all, Lawrence Township residents who put their trees by the side of the road will donate to the project indirectly because trees collected by the township's public works department end up at the Ecological Center and Readlinger has arranged for them to be earmarked for the Shore project.
Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun said residents can also drop off theirold Christmas trees directly at the Ecological Center between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
Now Readlinger seeks volunteers who can help load the trees onto the truck over the weekend, or even those who might have a truck to donate to the effort.
Once the trees get to the shore, Solazzo and other local residents use the trees, in conjunction with fencing, to build up the dunes along the private beach that were significantly eroded as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
The Christmas trees and fences serve as an obstacle for the winds to pass through, dumping sand on top of the trees and rebuilding a natural barrier.
“Ultimately it helps to restore the dunes by collecting sand,” Solazzo said. “It took 30 years to get the dunes where they were.”
Solazzo said homes along that stretch of beach were mostly spared from damage, but the residents want to make sure the homes remain unscathed during future storms.
Protecting their homes is important for residents of the blue collar community where bungalows line the shore, albeit set back a little further from some of the homes that suffered the worst storm damage, he said.
“There’s a lot of people for who it is their primary residence, it’s their home, it doesn’t matter if (the homes) are worth $20,000 or $500,000," Solazzo said. "The culture is different, we’re not going anywhere. We need to stay, we need the homes we love so much.
“You can’t take for granted it won’t happen again tomorrow.”
To volunteer to help April Readlinger with her efforts, email her at email@example.com.