In our November 6th Celebration Service of the life of our Historic White Oak Tree, we outlined several areas that our Task Force would be dealing with as we prepare for the removal of our special tree and plan for memorials to ensure its place in our future. Although much of our activity has been publicized in various media outlets, we wanted to send a special note to the congregation summarizing our efforts to date.

Tree Removal–a team led by John Smith prepared a bid document outlining the requirements for the job which was given to 4 area tree companies. After careful consideration, the contract was awarded to Keiling Tree Company. Keiling Tree has been active in both efforts to save the tree over the past year as well as the initial pruning of the tree done just prior to the November 6th service. The timing for the removal has been scheduled for the week of April 24th.

Fundraising Reception at Pollaro Furniture–at the February meetings of Session and Trustees, a fundraising event was approved as a community effort to help with the costs associated with removing the tree as well as subsequent costs for trucking, sawmills, wood storage and the creation of a memorial at the site of the tree. Bernards Township, The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills and The Friends of Ross Farm have all joined us in sponsoring this event. The reception is scheduled for Wednesday, April 19th at the Pollaro Furniture facility in Hillside, NJ. A detailed invitation has been included in this week’s email to the congregation. (Click here to purchase tickets.)

Tree Lighting/Illumination–just prior to the Christmas Eve carol sing, spot lights were installed around the Oak Tree to illuminate the tree. These lights are on a timer and come on at dusk and remain on for 8 hours. The illumination is planned to continue through the winter and up until the removal as a farewell gesture to its long tenure in our community.

Donation of a “baby oak”–As many of you recall, several seedlings were grown from acorns collected from our own oak tree through a program at Union County College led by Professor Tom Ombrello. These seedlings were sold to raise funds for the renovation of our church cemetery. Professor Ombrello planted one of the seedlings in his Historic Tree Grove on the college campus which has grown to about 25 ft tall at this time. In response to the news that our Historic Oak Tree was dying and would need to be dismantled, the Union County College administration has graciously offered this very special “baby oak” to our church. Although it cannot be planted on the exact location of its “parent”, plans are being made to move the oak in early April and plant it on our church property. The costs for the move are included in the fundraising needs for the overall Historic Oak Tree project.

Call for Pictures of other seedlings in the area–as part of our plans to memorialize our Historic Oak, were are looking for pictures of seedlings that have survived so that we can create a collage of our Historic Oak’s progeny. We have identified a few survivors, but we assume there are more. Please contact the church office if you know of any of these seedlings–we would love to gather as many pictures as possible.

Oak Tree Tee Shirt Contest–as a result of interest shown by our local school district, students at all levels have been discussing our Historic Oak Tree and its significance to the community. One result has been a tee shirt contest at William Annin School which they developed in concert with The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH). We should be seeing these tee shirts around town soon! Other plans involving our schools are currently being coordinated with the Task Force.

THSSH Video–the Historical Society is in the process of creating a video highlighting the history of our Historic Oak Tree which will include interviews with town and church personnel, footage and photographs of the tree and much more. They are also sponsoring an art show displaying the works of local artists featuring our Oak Tree which is being scheduled for later in the spring.

Forward Plans–the Task Force is continuing to develop plans for wood creations from wood collected from our Oak Tree. The type and number of projects will be dependent on the quality and quantity of wood discovered as the tree is taken down. The Task Force is also developing plans for a memorial to be placed on the site of our Historic Oak.

We want to thank everyone connected with this project for their efforts in making our work possible and helping to ensure that our tree is removed safely and with the dignity that it deserves.

The Oak Tree Task Force
Jon Klippel and Bill Emmitt, co-chairs