Wenonah Re -Planting trees

Fifty new trees were donated from the Atlantic City Electric to the Wenonah Shade tree commision to replant after Spetember 1st, 2021 Tornado

“The town was crippled for over a week,” Gary Odenbrett said recalling the storm damage. “It probably took out close to 300 street trees and well over 1,000 personal property trees.”

New trees for South Jersey community months after tornado

click here for the news reported on 6abc

Hats off to Gary and Jim Ramsay from STC for spending the day getting over 22 trees planted. Special thanks to Ledden Palimeno Landscaping for their generous donation of time and labor on getting these trees planted. Brian and our PW crew did the prep work yesterday, digging the holes to make today happen.


New trees are planted in Wenonah Park on April 15, 2022


Wenonah has long been known for its lush tree canopy. The borough recently marked 26 years as a Tree City USA community, a designation bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation.

To maintain that reputation and restore the beloved trees lost to the storm, the community of about 2,200 rallied to raise funds, clean up the mess and make way for new growth.

The latest work focused on restoring the borough’s park, where more than 20 new trees were planted Friday.

Resident Sarah Harbold launched a GoFundMe drive to raise funds for new trees in the park and along streets, and that effort has raised more than $38,000 so far.
Harbold is thrilled with the response to the GoFundMe and all that has been accomplished.

“I think it’s pretty phenomenal,” she said. “The GoFundMe, for me personally has been very humbling, and I’m glad I was able to set up this vehicle for people who don’t live in Wenonah anymore who are far away and want to do something as a memorial for their family. That is available for them to do that and purchase some trees.”

About 300 of the borough’s 2,500 street trees, those that grow between the street and sidewalk, were lost to the twister, while officials estimate more than 500 located on private property were also downed.
Wenonah Park, the centerpiece of this community, lost about 40 trees, some dating back to the early days of the borough, which was founded in the 1870s.

Wenonah Park before and after storm

Wenonah Park suffered massive tree loss from the Sept. 1, 2021, tornado. Left is a Google Maps view of the park, next to a recent image of how the park looks today.(Gary Odenbrett)


But trees have a greater meaning here than in many places, so local leaders and volunteers got to work.

For the Wenonah Shade Tree Commission, maintaining the borough’s greenery is a year-round mission. Through its annual planting program, the commission has planted more than 700 trees since 2006.

They didn’t waste any time after the storm. By December, the volunteers had already planted 46 trees, all donated by Exley’s Landscape and Nursery, along borough streets to replace some of those lost.

The Wenonah Park Restoration Committee, made up of local leaders, average citizens and representatives from the shade tree commission, was created last year to develop the park recovery plan. The park occupies an entire block and was once the front yard of the Wenonah Military Academy, which trained young cadets from 1902 until 1935.

Jack Sheppard Jr., a former borough councilman who is heading up the park restoration committee, paid for an arborist to conduct a thorough review of the park’s trees, including damage assessments, cataloguing what trees remained and making recommendation for new plantings.

Last month, the first phase of the park recovery effort focused on Southeast Avenue, which runs between the park and the railroad tracks that run through the middle of town, explained Gary Odenbrett, chairman of the shade tree commission.

TimberCut Tree Service removed downed trees and stumps free of charge, Exley’s donated 13 flowering trees and five white pines and Ledden Palimeno landscape company provided a crew to plant a total of 36 trees, including six pin oaks, 17 white pines and those 13 flowering trees.

The Borough’s public works department helped by unloading the trees and positioning them prior to planting.

The flowering trees, including lilacs and dogwoods, are already springing to life with colorful blooms.

Phase two of the restoration work happened Friday, when 22 trees were planted in the park, including conifers, maples, hollies, purple leaf plums, Serbian Spruce and Nellie Stevens Holly trees.

Once again, local businesses, volunteers and the public works department labored side by side to pull this project together, and locals are noticing.

“We’re getting a lot of resident entries on different social media platforms thanking us for the work we’ve done, just expressing their gratitude and happiness that we’re recreating the park close to what it was prior to the storm,” Odenbrett said.

This isn’t the end of the park work, though. The third phase will be a return in the fall to assess what can be planted next, according to Odenbrett.

“It is a continuing effort,” Harbold said of the restoration work carried out this spring. “This is just the first major phase of this. Obviously, there’s more to be done through upcoming years.”

In the meantime, the Woman’s Club of Wenonah is in the planning stages for a project to create seating areas in the park.

The park holds a special place in the hearts of Woman’s Club members, according to club co-presidents Jenn Pizi and Vicki McCall, since this is where the group launched and where it’s held a weekly farmers market for the last four years. The market draws more than 70 vendors and visitors from miles away.

Seeing the park come back to life with new trees is great for the community, they said.

“Since the tornado hit us in September, it has been fairly common to see residents walking to the park, stopping and tearing up,” Pizi said. “In the fall and winter they were tears of sadness because of the destruction. Now they are tears of joy.”

The park, which hosts events including Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July festivities and Christmas tree lightings, has meant many things to local residents and business owners who take part in the market and other festivities, McCall noted.

“It was a soothing balm to residents who have weathered the pandemic, and also a business-saving endeavor for a number of small businesses,” she said. “Seeing new trees coming in to provide shade to our vendors and shoppers is wonderful.”