Woodwild Park Association Gets Some Heat for Tree Removals


During the public portion of Monday's Borough Council meeting, members of the Woodwild Park Association presented a defense of  their removal of two blue spruce trees from the horse trough triangle at the intersection of Oak Avenue and Middlesex Avenue.  After the trees were taken down last week the police were called and an incident report was filed because the trees were believed to be Borough property.  Members argued they had the right to remove the trees because Woodwild Park and the triangle have been under their care since the Charles H. Corbin family conveyed the title to both areas to the group over 100 years ago. The Council was quick to point out that, if the trees were in the Borough's right-of-way, this conveyance couldn't be used to allow for the removal.

The group felt the trees were a traffic hazard, so back in May the Association presented a renovation plan for the triangle to the Shade Tree Commission; the plan included the removal of the two spruces. According to a Shade Tree Commission representative at the meeting, the plan was rejected after the Metuchen Police concluded the trees did not present a traffic safety issue.  The Woodwild Park Association says they were not informed of this decision; the Shade Tree Commission says they were.  The matter is now under investigation.

Why didn't the Shade Tree Commission just let the Woodwild Park Association remove the trees back in May?  The group has been taking care of the triangle and the park for over 100 years with their own time and money.  They wanted to take down two ornamental trees, not mature shade trees that would take decades to replace.  The Woodwild Park Association should be allowed to put together a plan and execute it. They deserve that much for their century of hard work.


Independents and Libertarians get dug up? Or buried?

Jeez do not give anyone any ideas about digging up a horse trough. That's what usually happens to Independants & Libertarians. Than you will really have a police investigation.

there are people who build first and only get the permits if they get caught

So if I go to the town for variance approval to build an addition on my house and the town says no, do I build it anyway?

Seems like that is what was done here.

Most people I know would go back to the town and get the no changed to a yes, by either adapting my plans, further explaining to board memebers, or some other method.

BTW, I heard there were pictures of the cut down trees in the guys backyard, already in the christmas tree stand. Boy, those would be a hoot.

Obviously. Did you ever think that the free speech expressed here provides input to the Mayor and Council on how people feel? Anytime, you involve the Police and DPW and Boro Attorney it is not trivial. As one personality wrote--"Mayor Vahalla and the Metuchen Borough Council are doing their duty as elected officials in investigating the complaint lodged by the Shade Tree Commission." Otherwise Metuchen Matters becomes a party rag. Censorship is not a good idea.

Obviously there are a lot of people in Metuchen who have nothing better to do than complain about something as ridiculous as this. There are too many other things of greater importance that need attention - focus on those and stop wasting your energy on trivialities.

Hurrah to Ms. Reuter for bringing some levity to the situation.

funny - Philadelphia has a historic horse trough that was run into by a truck but no one will claim ownership


Yes we are spending unnecessary money on two spruce trees that the WPA was already planning to replace with at least three shade trees planted further back from the road.

Has anyone heard from The Mayor or is waiting for his orders from Dyas. Supposedly Dyas pulls Vahall's strings to allow him to talk. Is Metuchen really squabbling over two trees and spending unnecessary money. They should be looking into the big money error, remember $624 thousand dollars. That question was never really answered, just spin.

I also defer to the horse trough. Bravo!

I heard the horse trough was a libertarian.

Prior to their removal, I interviewed the two trees. To my surprise, the one on the right was a Republican, and the one on left was a Democrat. The House Trough declined to comment, but I suspect it is a registered Independant.

Seriously, though, when it comes to issue of who is paying to mow the grass there, keep in mind that there are a number of community groups in Metuchen that use their own funds and hard work to improve the Borough and its property. For example, the Cemetery Committee of the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society has spent thousands of dollars over the last decade towards the maintainence of the Colonial Cemetery, which is Borough-owned property (hence saving the tax payers of Metuchen several thousands of dollars). The Woodwild Park Association's work is towards the maintenance of "private" property, but it is for the benefit of the Borough's residents.

Considering what some of these groups do for Metuchen and Metuchenites, it does seem reasonable to me that the Borough government could mow a small patch of grass a couple of times a year.

When it comes to ROW issues, Shade Tree regulations, etc., I defer to the Horse Trough.

Fellow Metuchen Residents...Think for a moment if you would....We have a downtown that is struggling. Many restaurants and shops that are facing tough times. Families that have suffered recent tragedies and a world facing uncertainty.

Members of the WPA pay dues to help maintain the woods behind the homes on OAK Ave and the triangle. We do this to protect that space for future generations as well as current Metuchen residents. Its a wonderful place. I invite you to walk through. Think for a moment before you respond.

The triangle has plans to be made beautiful.

Bickering about the removal of 2 spruce trees.... Can we put this in perspective please. I am sure you all realize that there is much to be grateful for.

Wishing you peace in the new year!

Slow news week?

This is the craziest thing I've seen yet in this town full of crazy things. A tiny plot of land and people are practically coming to blows about it? Surely you can find more productive ways of spending this energy on the community.

Woodwild Park must stay the way it is and residents of the Borough are allowed to walk through the property as a nature park, per se. This is much ado about nothing. This Mayor and some council members leave alot to be desired. There must be more pressing things for them to be dealing with. This political grandstanding.

The town has been cutting the grass there for decades. Why should there have to be a formal agreement? So more taxpayer money can be spent on drafting and reviewing the agreement? That sound more like an imprudent expenditure than having DPW spend even 20 minutes cutting the grass every couple weeks.

Interesting comments…A few facts should be reviewed.

1. In May of this year members of the Woodwild Park Association met with the Metuchen Shade Tree Commission. A letter was forwarded to the Commission the following day summarizing our concerns. Key points in the letter were shared with Mayor Vahalla and Borough Council Members on 12/15. (1) Woodwild Park Association Board of Trustees received numerous complaints from area residents about the blue spruce trees obstructing driving visibility. (2) With continued growth and maturation, the trees will grow to obscure the horse trough landmark, further impede driving visibility, and possibly cause a hazard to school children by forcing them to pass the area by walking onto Route 27.

2. The removed spruce trees were approximately 14x7½ and 10x7½ feet in height/width with the potential to reach heights of 75 – 100 feet or more.

3. In response to those who feel the trees will be used for Christmas, they are correct. Branches of the two spruce trees have been cut and placed in Woodwild Park as a winter shelter for small animals. Merry Christmas little friends!

4. In my opinion, this is not a political issue. Mayor Vahalla and the Metuchen Borough Council are doing their duty as elected officials in investigating the complaint lodged by the Shade Tree Commission.

5. Any Metuchen resident can become a member of the Woodwild Park Association. All may enjoy the natural beauty of Woodwild Park and the “Horse Trough Triangle”.


Ms. Sardone, I respected you as a council woman, but you leave me cold as to a sense of proper use of public funds in this case. For you to say that tells me that it was a side deal. The way to correct this problem is a formal agreement going forward that clearly spells out responsibility of all as I said earlier. My heart tells me that is the right thing my but my head not. I can still go with my heart. After this epsoide, I think an agreement is in order D R or I.

Permission to allocate funds by state statute does not ensure or compel that two parties actually and lawfully enter into an agreement. So enlighten me, does such an agreement or ordinance or resolution exist that legally authorizes the Boro to perform the work and what are the stipulations (quid pro quo) of that agreement?

Otherwise, it is a side deal and the Association is responsible not I and my fellow taxpayers. I do not care who sits on Council D R or I.

It's probably at least ten minutes. Truly an outrage!

Take notice to the size of this parcel of land. It is rather small, essentially like a traffic island. It must take DPW all of about 15 minutes to cut the grass there. But I do agree that if it is private property the town should not be maintaining it. Who knows what side deals may have been made over the years. Nothing in writing just old fashioned neighborly type help. This could alo be of some historic significance. Many articles about Metuchen reference this parcel as belonging to the WPA. I know you can't believe everything you read ,but there must have been some research before these articles were written or printed in books sold at the drug store an at the library. This is nothing more than politics at its usual worst.

Please Mr. Schaefer, do not open another can of worms until this one is shut. You have brought up a possibility of a "deal" of some sort for the cutting of the grass which is not the case. The Borough of Metuchen, being a small and intimate community reaches out to many community based organizations through their different departments. Our town employees, department heads and yes even the Mayor and Borough Council will, in fact, do things for this community over and above what other towns will do for their citizens and organizations.

I will give you one and only one example. When there is a parade, Fair or other event run by an entity other than a governmental one, our DPW hangs a banner across Main Street. Main Street is NOT a Borough Road and the banner is hung between two buildings that are NOT Borough owned. The way things are going right now there is too much finger pointing and not enough working together to have this resolved.

Cutting the grass at Borough Hall & Martin Luther King Park and then spending 5 minutes to cut the triangle is no big deal.

I don't know when the town made the decision to mow the grass there, or why they did, but there is a state statute that permits the town to allocate money for maintenance of this type of park.

That all me be true, but it provides no basis in fact as to why I or other tax payers are obliged to pay to maintain private property be it R or D. A real can of worms was opened here by a lack of adroitness.

I see no reason to fund private property for the public good. The whole incident only carries that view forward.

Trees planted by the garden club at no cost to town, trees purchased by garden club at no cost to town. Trees cut down by garden club or authorized by garden club at no cost to town. The town is causing this expense, because they are upset that these two trees wer cut down without their permission.

The WPA is contending that they own the property, so they removed the trees and will be planting new ones back further from the sidewalk. Again a big deal about nothing. Believe it or not if this tree cutting act had been committed by someone friendly to the Democratic Machine, there would not be so much banter. This is going to cost the town big bucks.

Sorry, I am unmoved. Based on what you just stated. The question of who has the legal and or lawful authority/responsibility to maintain the property is delegated to the Association not the Boro. It also looks to me that sometime in the 20th or early 21st century the association struck a side deal with the Boro and I question the legality of that side deal, unless there is a formal agreement. Do you know if such an agreement exists?

Do not be surprised if you and your neighbors assuming you are an association member get stuck with that bill for maintenance going forward using private service. Not my money for this use under current conditions.

It is still private property by what you stated and I suspect our Boro Attorney will end up having to research that out because of the actions taken, More money spent. There was a better way to do this if the Shade Tree people proved non-responsive or indifferent or the Association wanted what they wanted. That way sometimes comes with a high price. I hope they are prepared.

Tell us all, why did no one go to council first before the axe struck yet only after? In other words if the associaton did not feel the need to go in the first place why was the need felt to appear in the second place? I would love to hear the explanation.

Although the park is technically privately owned by the park association, according to the 1897 deed conveying the park from the Corbins to the park association trustees, the association holds the park in trust as a public park. So there is already a binding legal document providing "quid pro quo." The public is permitted to use the park for passive recreation.

It is not political baloney. I do not doubt that legal ownership of the land belongs to the Association, I suspect it is a legally incorporated body and not a club as a member of the Shade Tree Commission quipped. I am even willing to bet based on what I read that it is close to but no cigar for violations of right of way. Though, I hope it proves to be a violation. So that a lesson may be taught.

You know what--I thought those trees were ugly too. So What? What peeved me is that I had to discover in a BC meeting that my tax dollars are being used to maintain private property and perhaps plant trees. Wrong, my tax dollars because someone claims a benefit to me on land owned by a private entity is simply bull and galling.

As a general principle smart government bodies avoid these situations because you run into problems like we have here and now. How we got into it--I do not know and I do not care. But, here we did not avoid and so exposed a questionable use of tax payer dollars though, I will grant well intentioned one. Not my money anymore. Shame--it is going to take time and perhaps money to straighten that one out to unless people begin to think rationally. I also like our Boro attorney (being a D or R does not matter to me. He is right it took nerve to do this and that nerve is causing us a billable for his services to address the matter. Better spent else where.

Well, in the meantime the use of my tax dollar to maintain Association property must stop, and now and unless and until and I am being reasonable here there is a binding legal agreement on quid pro quo is achieved so that all benefit.

Personally, my heart says that but my brain still says no. To me the whole thing is high handed by both Government & Private Association with tax payer money being used for private property benefit and cutting down of trees by unilateral action. There is a need for ethics here and fast.

Called Police Dept. today , one accident there over the last three years. Looking around the town I noticed there are numerous intersections that visibility is hampered by either SHADE TREES or other bushes ,and in some cases fences. Also large vans and trucks block views. Who paid for these trees, I understand they were paid for and planted by the garden club. If they can pay for them and plant them , they should be able to remove them.

According to the Federal Highway Administration guidelines, for turning onto a 35 mph road from a stop sign, you should be able to see 390 feet up the road. Since hardly anyone does 35, the necessary sight distance should really be longer.

I have had close calls there. Must someone be injured or die in an accident first before a problem is solved?

this issue is total political baloney. We are talking about two trees for petes sake. They want to hang the culprits from the yardarm. They or the WPA are going to repalce the trees. Get over it already. For that matter who cares. How far up Rt 27 do you need to see. The google map shows the stop sign at the crosswalk. When yoy stop at the sign, like most stop streets you need to inch up. You can clearly see oncoming traffic. Lets find out how many accidents have been there when the trees were there. I checked it out today, although the trees are gone it appears that there was no problem in seeing past them before pulling out onto RT 27.

I'll give you the file!

Hey Doc, don't worry, if they take you to the big house, I'll bake you a cake. And one for the Judge, too.

Free the Woodwild Two!

I thought they were supposed to determine if they were in the Oak Avenue ROW?

While reviewing and editing my comments prior to submitting, they were lost. Please advise. Thank you.


The trees were cut down because they were on Woodwild Park property. The police measured the distance from the centerline of Route 27 to the trees and it was determined that the trees were 35 feet from the centerline. Given that the street width is 66 feet, the trees would have had to be within 33 feet to be in the street right-of-way. They were not. No crime was committed. Who can deny these other facts: The trees did block a driver's view of Route 27, and they were inappropriately placed. In in a few years when they reached maturity, the branches would have been way out past the sidewalk and they would have been butchered or removed anyway. Lastly, the Metuchen Garden Club has a plan to drastically improve the park in the coming months, and will be adding more trees and shrubs for everyone's enjoyment.

Thr irony is, if they had left them there, in a few years they would have gotten a notice from the zoning officer to cut them back because they were blocking the sidewalk!

Goodness me! What a lot of huffing and puffing is being done here. Give the volunteers the credit they deserve for tending to this glorious piece of Metuchen. For heavens sake, the rest of the town is going downhill; at least let's have one area that we can be proud of.

Apparently not. Just heard the police department was out there today measuring the intersection.

Hey use the picture above to navigate up Oak and then spin around to look left up 27, just as you mentioned. You are absolutely correct that you can't see up 27. The proof is right there. Mystery solved. Can we now, get down to real business in town?

And if there was an accident, and the trees were somehow deemed to have contributed to it, you know that then they would be claiming that the trees were Woodwild property.

I don't know how the police could have determined that they weren't a traffic hazard. You had to pull out into the shoulder to see around them if you wanted to turn left onto 27 from Oak. When there was also someone waiting on 27 south to turn left onto Rector, the cars going around them then had to swerve around you, too.

If cutting the grass somehow makes it public property, does that mean that I now own the planting strip between the curb and sidewalk in front of my house, since I am the one who cuts the grass there?

How about Democrats allegedly altering public documents. Thats okay ,but don't cut down a tree that you put up and believe it to be on your property. Intent. What was their intent? They had every reason to believe that this is WPA property,otherwise they would not have had the trees cut down. They have alreday agreed to replace them. What is the BIG DEAL? Too much time and money is being spent on this BS incident.


And let's finally give Elizabeth Corbin some credit! The deed conveying the parkland to the Woodwild Park trustees was signed by Charles AND Elizabeth Corbin. The park was a gift of Charles AND Elizabeth Corbin. Not some anonymous "family" member.

Thank you Elizabeth Corbin!

Perhaps if the Shade Tree Commission wants to be taken seriously then they should stop planting trees in locations that violate the shade tree guidelines in the borough land development ordinance. Drive around and you will see recently planted trees that do not comply with this ordinance.

§ 110-180.C. Corner lots and driveways. No shade tree shall be planted in a planting strip, between the curb and the sidewalk, within 25 feet of the intersecting curblines of an intersection or within 10 feet of a driveway apron.

"And if someone wants to pay the costs to replace them, and especially if that someone is a group that has shown great dedication to the beautification of the town, I'd let them." I totally agree with George. Why is it always the volunteers who get slammed all the time? Why can't we all just appreciate what they've done? I do!

yes, I agree, lets just stop enforcing any laws, will save us lots of money.

Calm down, and stop yelling.


I don't think its arrogance to follow the law, why have any rules then?

Lets get rid of zoning board, planning board, and any other of those rule making bodies.

I would feel the same way regardless of the political party of the people who did this. That is not the point. But it is curious that the person who did this is a former judge and politician. He should know better and follow the rules.

Typical Democrat Arrogance. That is what is being displayed by the Mayor and his cohorts. This whole entire situation in my opinion is being blown out of proportion. The trees and other landscaping is going to be done, what is the big deal.
The democrats once again are making this a political matter. They are just a bunch of sore losers. If they keep up their attitudes they will lose another seat or two in the election next year.

My comments are longer than the piece at this point, but I just wanted to make it clear that I support the Shade Tree Commission goals. I think our trees might be the town's greatest asset and we should do everything we can to protect them. I just view these two trees differently, I think they can be easily replaced. And if someone wants to pay the costs to replace them, and especially if that someone is a group that has shown great dedication to the beautification of the town, I'd let them.

Let's look at motives here.
Dr. Primich was a very long time Metuchen business owner, a Navy veteran, a highly, highly respected surgeon, and 50+ year resident of Metuchen and father of 8, one of which is a priest in the Catholic Church.

Judge Plechner is also a 50+ year resident, a veteran (not sure which branch), and County Judge for many, many years.

The Woodwild Park Association and the Metuchen Garden Club are two volunteer organizations. The WPA actually collects personal funds from it's members and pays to maintain and keep in trust the Woodwild Park. They collectively as two groups came together to work on a project to beautify a portion of property that the WPA owns and have maintained for over 100 years.

You really, really think they took down 2 trees to put them in their living room for Christmas? Have you completely lost your marbles?

Now certain people on the other hand see this as a way to invoke attack politics and bring people's party registration into the conversation? Is it a coincidence that Oak Ave and the whole WPA area was covered in Manley for Council signs and now suddenly they are treated as second class citizens by the Democratic Party and it's leadership? This kind of behavior is why you lost the last 2 elections and will continue to do so. You have no respect for the people of this town or the work and time they have served.

The manner in which Mayor Vahalla and Attorney Frizell spoke and in some cases shouted at these gentlemen was appalling and a disgrace. Could it have been handled better by both parties? Yes. Does it need to be prosecuted via the law? No. Should the taxpayers be paying for the research? Absolutely not. If the Mayor was ANY kind of leader, all parties would have a private meeting and find an agreeable solution. The man from the Garden Club even said that they were only 25% done with their work and that the trees were going to be replaced. Give it up

Your point is well taken and I don't condone breaking the law. Maybe I'm naive, but I really don't think they thought they were breaking the law. And it hasn't been proven yet that they have; ownership of the trees is still under investigation. I just think it's not worth spending Borough time and money on this. Let the Woodwild Park Association put together a plan and make them pay for its implementation.

I should also note that the Garden Club was part of the presentation to the Shade Tree Commission and I believe they are working with the Woodwild Park Association on the new design for the triangle.

You may be correct and it shouldn't have come to this, but they should have followed the rules that everyone else follows. And they were not fairly small, go look at the stumps, trees like that go for $1000+. And they were beautiful, so nice that the guys who cut them down were in process of putting them up as Christmas trees. Wow, what timing these guys had.

If I went for a variance on work on my house and was denied, I would not build it anyway, I would work on getting it approved. If I did build after being denied, I would be in big trouble.

And knowing that one of these guys is a former Judge and political candidate makes it even more ironic. Shouldn't they be setting an example of the proper way we do things in a civilized society? Or do the rules only apply to us little folk?

The guys are big local Republicans? Are the Council and Shade Tree showing their bias?

It's true, Public Works does do the lawn cutting, but all the shrubbery and maintenance of the horse trough (painint/planting) are a result of the Woodwild Park Association.

My main point is these were two fairly small trees that were purely ornamental. And that the group's plan to renovate the area would more than make up for their removal.

I always see Metuchen public works cutting the lawn there, yet you article says the Park association hase been taking care of the triangle with their own time and money.

Looks to me like my money is going to maintain the property....

Hmm, no mention that the trees ended up in these guys living rooms as Christmas trees?

Months of waiting for a response and they decide to do it two weeks before Christmas, and wow, how conveniant, we can get free Christmas trees?
December is when you decide to do your gardening?

Or no mention on how the guys who did this are big local Republicans? Funny.

You are letting your bias show.

I expect you will delete this post now....

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