Dealing With Downed Trees In Pennsauken Township

By Bernie Kofoet, Public Works Superintendent

Trees are an important part of our environment. They produce the oxygen we breathe. They provide cool shade from the hot summer sun. For many, they are a source of winter heat. We build our homes with lumber from trees. Chances are, at least part of the paper you are reading is made from trees.

One of the responsibilities of the Public Works Department is dealing with trees and limbs brought down by those nasty summer thunderstorms which seem to roll though on a routine basis or the snow and ice of a wintery blast. The department has trained personnel equipped with a specially outfitted bucket truck and chipper to deal with this.

Public Works maintains open streets for access by emergency vehicles, similar to snow removal in the winter. If a downed tree also brings down utility lines, it then becomes the responsibility of PSE&G. As long as there are energized wires, we cannot work on the removal. This can be frustrating to residents who are waiting for their street to be cleared, but we must make safety our first priority. In addition, we are not permitted to go onto private property to remove trees which may have come down in a storm.

The department is also responsible for the maintenance of the trees at over 30 parks, playgrounds and other municipal locations. We are fortunate to have so many recreational opportunities for our residents, but they do require a large effort to maintain in a safe manner.

Another thought that comes to mind is the many curb line trees which line our streets. All trees along the curb line, the area between the inside face of the curb and the outside edge of the sidewalk, are the responsibility of the homeowner. There is a common misconception that these trees are the responsibility on the Township. This is incorrect. The Township, as a courtesy, will remove curb line trees if they meet certain criteria.

They must be either at least 60 percent dead; present an eminent safety hazard; or be the cause of at least three documented sewer blockages. If a tree meets any of these criteria, it would meet the requirements for removal.

The tree removal process begins with a call to the Public Works Department and a request to have the tree inspected. We will send someone to inspect the tree to determine if it meets one of the above criteria. Once that is determined, the homeowner will be given a form to sign, giving the Township permission to remove the tree. By signing this form, the homeowner also agrees to repair any damage done to the sidewalk and curb by the tree and to have the stump removed within 90 days. We then forward a list of the trees which are removed to the Code Enforcement Department, so that they can follow up on these two stipulations.

Since the curb line trees are the homeowner’s responsibility, they may at any time have them removed by a private tree service. If you choose to use a private service, you should make certain that they have both liability and workers compensation insurance. The company must also be licensed to work in Pennsauken. If you use a private tree removal service, it is their responsibility to remove all of tree waste.

If you choose to replace a removed tree, or merely plant a tree in front of your home, there are certain approved species of tree which are allowed. These were selected based on the size of the curb line and on the root systems ability to not damage the sidewalk. There are also guidelines for their placement so as not to cause obstructions for fire hydrants or visibility obstruction at corners. Information on the types of trees and proper placement is available through the Pennsauken Shade Tree Commission. For more information, visit

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” – Joyce Kilmer, “Trees.”

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