Bergen Community College officials recently reviewed plans for the planting of 125 new trees at the Paramus main campus.

PARAMUS, N.J – Bergen Community College has secured a $250,000 state grant to renew its main campus tree population decimated by a changing climate, disease and invasive insects. The College secured the grant through the “Trees for Schools” program administered through the Sustainability Institute at the College of the New Jersey and funded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program made $2.5 million in grants available to public school districts, colleges and universities this year.

“Unfortunately, environmental factors have impacted the natural beauty, buffers and ecological benefits provided by a substantial tree landscape,” Bergen President Eric M. Friedman, Ph.D., said. “Symbolic of sustainability and renewal, the Trees for Schools grant will allow the College to develop a more resilient tree population that will benefit the campus community for generations.”

As part of the initiative, Bergen will plant 125 new trees to create a natural perimeter buffer “climax forest,” or collection of trees that can withstand local environmental stressors. Bergen will remove dozens of green ash and plum trees originally planted in the 1980s that have fallen prey to the emerald ash borer insect and black knot fungus.

Another contributing factor, the warming climate, has moved the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map 65 miles north since the planting of Bergen’s ash and plum trees in the 1980s. Due to this warming, the Paramus planting environment can no longer support many of the tree species planted 40 years ago. Agricultural experts expect the new, more resilient species of trees scheduled for planting at the Paramus campus to flourish with proper care and maintenance.

The grant outline, which runs through July 2026, calls for a spring 2024 planting of the new trees. The initiative also contains an experiential learning component, which will see biology and horticulture students participate in all phases of the tree removal, planting and maintenance.

The College has tapped a number of experts from various disciplines to assist in the project including horticulture program coordinator Steve Fischer, Ph.D., who will integrate outside partners such as the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association. Fischer serves as an adviser to the organization’s board of directors. Retired Bergen employee and longtime environmental steward Hugh Knowlton will also assist.

The grant reinforces Bergen’s commitment to participating in sustainability initiatives that promote health and wellness as part of its campus environment. These ideas appear throughout President Friedman’s goals and the institution’s recently revised mission, vision and values statements. The Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey and Commerce Magazine recently recognized Bergen’s sustainability efforts with an award for environmental stewardship, while the federal government awarded the institution a $4.5 million grant to create pathways to education and employment in agricultural fields.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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