Hacked Trees

Sigrid Hayes, of Hamilton Township, stands near trees in the front of her home off of Cologne Avenue that she says were cut too severely. She says her grandfather planted the trees 100 years ago.

Overhanging trees make a picturesque view on the region’s rural roads. But crews work every day to keep them from growing into a problem.

In Hamilton Township, Public Works crews routinely trim back trees every day, barring a major storm. It is an essential service that keeps the region’s roadways open.

“It’s on the list of things that has to get done,” said Brett Noll, the township public works director. On Friday, he said crews were out near the Lake Lenape Dam cutting trees for an access road.

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Both this pinelands community and Galloway Township are responsible for 171 miles of roads in their respective municipalities, according to the state Department of Transportation statistics. Locally, only Vineland, with 235 miles of roads, and Egg Harbor Township, with 207 miles, have more roadway to maintain.

Atlantic County, with 359 miles of roads, also has several crews out on the roads every day, said Bill Reinert, the county head of public works. It uses a Motrim, essentially an oversized lawnmower on a boom, to cut back overhead trees.

They also maintain the sight triangle, a space at an intersection that allows drivers to see if anyone is coming.

People who live along the roads usually accept the trimming. Some people have complained when bushes were taken out of the sight triangle, but Reinert said, “If you talk to them, they generally understand.”

Sigrid Hayes lives along Cologne Avenue in Hamilton Township, a road maintained by the county. Last month she said that crews hacked off limbs from the trees her grandfather George Liepe planted about 100 years ago.

When Hayes, 84, awoke one morning last month after sleeping on her enclosed porch, “I said, ‘Oh my God, they destroyed the trees!’”

On Friday, she criticized the removal. “You look up and down the street, and you see them hanging all over the street past here,” she said. “They didn’t have to cut them all off.”

In Hamilton Township, Noll said the township shares responsibility for its roads with Verizon, Comcast and Atlantic City Electric. Those companies typically hire contractors to take the lead on the sides of the street with utility lines. The township typically handles the sides of streets without utilities.

The township has a schedule, Noll said, that ensures emergency routes and secondary streets, such as West Jersey Avenue and Malaga Road, are trimmed.

Otherwise, Noll said residents are encouraged to call and request service. He said, “We’ve become very complaint-driven.”

Crews have also been driven by the severe storms that have hit the area in recent years, Noll said. Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, as well as the derecho storm of June 2012, hit with strong winds that snapped off the tops of trees.

Reinert echoed that. “We spent an awful lot of time after the derecho,” Reinert said. “We were cleaning up trees well into the winter this past year.”

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