- Benefits of Trees
- Caring for Trees
- Pruning Landscape Trees
- Borough Shade Trees
- Oldest Street Trees in Princeton
- Recommended Trees for Princeton
- Construction – Protecting Trees before and after Construction
- Trees for Kids
- Reasons not to top trees
- Tree Fact Sheets
- Bacterial Leaf Scorch
- Deer Resistant Plants
- Mulching trees
- Urban Tree Resources
- MAPS / WALKS
Frequently Asked Questions
Princeton Shade Trees
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does the Shade Tree Commission do?
The Princeton Borough STC works with residents and employees of the Borough to watch over the health and diversity of our forest and street trees; to inventory, maintain, and grow the community green scene; to survey and monitor the streets to reduce risk from hazardous or ailing trees; and to promote public awareness of proper tree care.
Q: How do I report a tree problem, like a large fallen branch or tree?
A: If you are having a tree emergency – i.e. a tree has fallen – there may be power lines involved. Do not go near it. Call the police at 911.
Q: What if tree roots are pushing up the sidewalk at my address? Who is responsible for trees that are blocking street lights, traffic and parking signs?
A: For non-emergencies, call the Borough Engineering Department (609-497-7634) or email PBSTC through the “contact” link on this site. Please describe the problem, and provide your address, cross street and your telephone number or email.
Q: Which trees are the responsibility of the Borough, and which are mine? Do I need a permit to plant, prune, or cut down trees on my property?
A: Approximately 3000 park trees and 26 miles of street trees, those growing between sidewalks and the curb, are protected by the Borough. All other trees are the responsibility of the property owner.
However, removing a tree larger than 16 inches diameter or 50.3 inches circumference measured at chest height, or removing more than two trees from 6-16 inches diameter within a 12 month period requires a $50 permit application to the Borough Engineering Office. Permit requests are available at Borough Hall or online at the Borough of Princeton website.
An enforcement officer visits the site to inspect within 15 days to grant or deny the permit. (Section 33-32 of the Princeton code has details at www.princetonboro.org/codebook.cfm)
Q: How do I report the address of a “public tree” or find it on the shade tree database?
A: A public tree is identified first by the STREET NAME it grows on, then the HOUSE NUMBER of the property, followed by a suffix LETTER and then a suffix NUMBER if more than one tree grows at that address. (Example: “Witherspoon Street 184 S2”
Trees growing in Front of a property are assigned the letter “F” after the street and house number; trees on the Side of a corner property are indicated by “S”. Trees at the Rear of a property where the back directly borders on another street are indicated by “R”.
Keep in mind that, for example, if 148 Witherspoon Street is on a corner, and there are two public trees in front and two around the corner on a different street, then both of the front trees would be listed as “Witherspoon 148 F”, and two around the corner (ignoring the side street name) would be listed as “Witherspoon 148 S.”
Finally comes the suffix NUMBER at the end of each tree address.
Tree numbering increases in the same direction that adjacent street traffic moves. In other words, the key to bear in mind is that Americans drive on the right side of roads. If you were driving past your own house with the front curb on your right, which tree would you pass first? That tree would be #1.
If follows in our Witherspoon example that the second tree from the corner in front of the Witherspoon corner property will be labeled Witherspoon 184 F1, and the tree closest to the corner is F2. Move around the corner, and the first tree you pass is Witherspoon 184S1; the second tree would be Witherspoon 184S2, with suffix numbers increasing as traffic flows along the right side of the street and away from the corner you last turned. -- prh
Q: What are the penalties for cutting down a tree without a permit?
A: Each tree removed is considered a separate violation. For each tree removed, the violator is subject to a fine of not more than one thousand dollars per tree, and shall replace each tree destroyed or removed with another tree approved by the enforcement officer. Replacement trees shall be planted near the location of the damaged or destroyed trees.
Q: May I prune a neighbor’s yard trees where they overhang my property?
A: In many localities, it is common practice for a resident to prune a neighboring tree overhanging their property, only up to the property line, so long as the tree itself is not damaged. Trimming a tree improperly can cause damage to the tree. You should consult with your neighbor before taking any action. If you are unable to work with your neighbor for a resolution, and the tree poses a danger to your property, you should consult with the Borough Engineering Department. If damage has already occurred to your property or to the neighbor’s tree, a consultation with your insurance company or an attorney may be required. The Shade Tree Commission does not have jurisdiction over disputes of this nature relating to trees found on private property.
Q: Does the PBSTC have any regulations about leaf blowers and restricted hours of operation?
A: The Princeton Borough noise code, (Chapter 21, Sec. 21-2-q) prohibits use of lawn power equipment between the hours of 10 pm and 8 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 10 pm and 10 a.m. on Sundays.
Q: Can I request a tree be planted curbside by the Borough? How does the Borough decide on the type of tree to plant?
A: If you have recently lost a tree, have an aging tree that may be lost in the future, or simply lack trees, the front of your property may be an ideal place for a young shade tree. Please contact the PBSTC (contact link on this site) which will provide a list of trees best suited to the Princeton area.
Considerations the Borough takes into account:
- How long is the tree expected to live?
- How tall or wide will it be when fully grown?
- How fast does the tree grow?
- Is the form appropriate to the spot?
- Will the tree have correct sun and moisture conditions?
- Is the tree flowering and does it produce fruit?
Q: How can I donate a tree to the borough? May a memorial or honorary tree be planted in the Borough, and what is the procedure?
A: Please contact PBSTC with your name and information regarding the person to be honored. Princeton residents may also apply to adopt a tree or nominate a historic tree. Contact PBSTC for details.
Q: How deep should the mulch be around my trees, and what kind is best?
A: Mulch around a tree should be spread like a donut, not a volcano. Never allow mulch to touch the tree’s bark, and never pile it higher than 3-4 inches. Mulch too deep decreases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can lead to fungal and bacterial diseases. It is best to mulch with wood chips or other coarse organic material.
Q: What do I do with dead branches in my yard?
A: Cut them into smaller pieces no more than 4 feet long, tie for collection, and place bundles curbside on your assigned refuse day.
Q: How do I find a tree specialist?
A: PBSTC cannot recommend one tree company over another, but it does recommend that you solicit more than one estimate prior to hiring a company. You should ask any certified arborist for this information.
- Request proof of I.S.A.(International Society of Arboriculture) certification and licensing by the Contractors State License Board.
- Make certain the arborist will be using ANSI A300 Pruning Standards and ANSI Z133 Safety Requirements.
- Avoid arborists that use climbing spurs (hooks and gaffs).
- Ask for a certificate of insurance which includes liability coverage for property damage as well as workers compensation insurance for all employees.
- Insist on a detailed written estimate.
Q: Is there a borough rule forbidding nails/staples for posters on tree trunks?
A: It is unlawful to attach ropes, wires, signs, placards to trees or to the guards or stakes protecting them, without first having obtained the written permission of the Borough Engineer.
Q: What if I don’t want a tree planted at my curbside?
A: A notice is sent to residents weeks before any curbside plantings. Residents have time to respond to the Engineering Dept.
Q: What’s a tree worth anyway?
Among the direct economic benefits of trees are lowered energy costs to homeowners, lower air conditioning costs, lower heating costs when trees are planted as windbreaks, and value added from landscaped vs. non-landscaped homes (from 5-20% value difference). The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Trees serve as noise barriers. Birds are attracted to the area. Leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates. Rain then washes pollutants to the ground. Leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air, as well as other pollutants, ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulphur dioxide. They give off oxygen. Temperature near trees is cooler than away from them. Trees moderate the pavement /concrete heat effects in urban settings. Wind speed and direction can be affected by trees, Trees reduce storm runoff and possibility of flooding. Dew and frost are less common under trees because less radiant energy is released from the soil in those areas at night.
Trees improve air quality, conserve water and harbor wildlife. They moderate the climate, improve air quality and conserve water. Go figure.