An era recently ended in Tunkhannock Borough when the Tunkhannock Tree Association announced that it was ceasing operation.
Member Diane Secor reported that the association voted in January to dissolve because of a lack of younger members. The association was formed in 1972, she said, and a large majority of its members are now in their 70s and older.
“It’s just getting to be too much,” she explained.
Although the Tunkhannock Tree Association no longer officially exists, the borough’s Shade Tree Commission still continues to function.
However, although some members of the association will be volunteering their time to the commissioner, there is a distinct difference between the two groups.
“The Tunkhannock Tree Association is a non-profit organization, made up of volunteers,” Secor explained. “The commission is part of the borough government that enforces the shade tree ordinance. It’s made up of four or five people appointed by the borough council.”
Secor confirmed that there has been considerable confusion among the public concerning the responsibilities of the Tunkhannock Tree Association compared to the Shade Tree Commission.
The commission makes certain that residents and businesses are following the guidelines set down by the shade tree ordinance, she said.
By contrast, the association has no enforcement authority. Instead, the volunteers planted trees, kept them trimmed, and otherwise took care of them.
“We planted trees that were donated to us as a non-profit organization,” Secor said. “We first turned the trees over to the Shade Tree Commission, who in turn allowed us to plant them in certain areas of the borough.”
Dissolving a non-profit organization involves more than just members voting on the matter. By law, certain guidelines must be observed, and the association has been working with the borough solicitor to turn what is left of the money it received from donations to the Shade Tree Commission.
The association will have about $10,000 to distribute to the Shade Tree Commission to be used exclusively for the purchase and planting of borough street trees, Secor said.
Secor estimated that over the years, the association planted approximately 700 trees in the borough.
“For five or six years, we planted 16 every year. In the last three to four years, we planted 12,” she explained.
Not only did the association plant the trees, members were kept busy seeing to the care and maintenance of each one.
Secor said that while the borough will now be looking after the trees, something will be lost in the process.
“What we did we really loved doing,” she explained. “It’s a different mind set. It’s not going to be the same.”
She also said that she is “very sad,” that the association will no longer be taking care of the trees.
“We were very reluctant to do it,” she said. “But we realized a few years ago that we were going to need younger people to do the job.”
Another association member, Lavona Daniels of Tunkhannock, agreed with Secor’s assessment. She explained that she’s been with the Tunkhannock Tree Association for over 12 years.
“I’m 75 years old,” she said. “That’s a lot of hard work, lugging branches by hand and sawing off limbs.”
Like Secor, Daniels said she loved planting and caring for the trees, and is sad to see the organization disbanded.
“Every year we had an Arbor Day program,” she said. “We had a little nursery group from the CYC (Catholic Youth Center). The kids would come up and we would plant the Arbor Day tree. The kids were wonderful. Diane would supply them with little pails and shovels. It was such an incredible educational experience.”
One of the association’s biggest fund raisers was its annual strawberry shortcake sale. Each year on Founders’ Day, the association would set up a booth and sell strawberry shortcake.
“It was a huge project,” Daniels explained. “It took us a week. We would make the shortcake and cut up the strawberries.”
Money raised from the shortcake sale was used to purchase trees, tools and supplies.
But a few years ago, the association turned the fund raiser over to the Dietrich Theater.
“We decided to end our strawberry shortcake fund raiser because of the huge amount of labor hours required to prepare for the event with limited members available to accomplish the preparations,” Secor explained. “Our motto ‘Better Than Mom’s’ was based on the standards we set for our shortcake which included using fresh strawberries instead of frozen and home-made shortcake instead of store-bought.”
Factoryville Borough also has a Shade Tree Commission. Borough Manager Mary Ellen Buckbee explained that she attends all the meetings, and provided information on how the organization operates.
Commission members Lisa Logan Clough, Kelly Lesofski, and Shirley Golembeski were appointed by the borough council. The commission sees to the care of trees in the borough, and plants them when necessary.
“It depends on what is needed,” Buckbee explained about how many trees are planted in a given year. “Last year, they only needed to plant one tree. That was done in honor of the memory of Steve Swift.”
Each year, Factoryville participates in Arbor Day celebrations.
“Since 2000, Factoryville has been named each year as a Tree City USA,” she said.