Students' Idea Takes Root Doomed Trees Will Be Replaced

Posted: October 24, 1990

One sure rule when dealing with teenagers: If you ask them to take out the trash, finish their algebra homework, or read a book, they'll take their time getting it done.

But let them think of a project on their own - as was the case last week when Eastern High School seniors Joe Robinson, Dave Tag and Mark Porter asked the school board for help in planting some trees - and it will be first on their list.

Concerned about the loss of about 15 acres of scrubby pines and underbrush that are being cleared to make way for the school's $18.7 million addition, Robinson, Tag and Porter last Wednesday made a pitch to the school board to replace the trees elsewhere in the community.

The board, also worried about the loss of the trees, which were not considered worth transplanting, already had begun to plan a tree-planting project. But the board wanted students to spearhead the idea.

The result? The students by next summer hope to plant 1,500 trees on school property and throughout the district's three communities: Voorhees Township and Gibbsboro and Berlin Boroughs. The students, who will be carrying out the project with the school's environmental awareness club, met Monday afternoon to develop their plan.

"When these young people come forward, they certainly made it a lot better for us because, when they initiate it, it will get a lot better response than if we tell them it's a good idea," Superintendent Daniel F. Hicks said of the project.

The students' interest in saving the trees started as a way to fulfill a health class assignment, but last week the three went well beyond the classroom to sell the idea.

On Oct. 15, they went to the Township Committee workshop session. On Oct. 16, they went to the Shade Tree Commission. Last Wednesday, accompanied by Paul Karvois and Charles Lamielle of the Shade Tree Commission, they appeared before the school board.

"We don't want (to lose) the wilderness," said Robinson, quarterback for the football team. "We're looking at the long-term picture. We want to replace it for the future generations."

The tree-planting project is the latest environmental issue to attract student interest at Eastern. The school has an active 35-member environmental awareness club which in April planted six trees and 10 seedlings for Earth Day. The club also is participating in a cleanup project at Voorhees' Lions Lake.

"It's a group of students who have very different interests who are coming together for the same goal," said Lori Smith, a biology teacher and the club's adviser.

In keeping with the project's theme of community involvement, the 1,500 trees will be donated by the township, county and state agencies and community service groups. The donated plantings will supplement the trees and shrubbery that are part of the design of the school's addition, Hicks said. The students also will be able to specify the location and arrangement of the trees, Hicks said.

"Sometimes we run parallel, and we eventually bump into each other," Hicks said. "It's good that they're thinking about the same kind of things, and have the same concerns about the environment."

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