A shade tree commission was established by municipal leaders in Lawrence Park Township almost 100 years ago.  They thought it was a great idea. The commission is supposed to meet on the first Monday of every other month to discuss the planting, the removal, the maintenance, and the protection of shade trees.  However, that panel has not taken any action at all for the past seven years.  It's done absolutely nothing.

I wanted to know why.  So I traveled to Lawrence Park.  I asked Joe Golden, the president of the Township Board of Commissioners why the Shade Tree Commission has done nothing for seven years.

"Lack of volunteers,” he said. “The commission has been vacant since 2015."

Golden says the board has been trying to recruit citizens to fill the three seats on the Shade Tree Commission since 2015 but no one, not one person, has stepped forward from the community of 3800 people.

"It's extremely difficult,” says Commissioner Golden. “We send communication out to the public by emails.  We have an email where residents can sign-up.  Throughout these last eight years there has been no one to step up and volunteer."

On February 8, the Lawrence Park Township Board of Commissioners will vote to dissolve the Shade Tree Commission which has been on the books since the township was formed in 1926.  It may be a trend.  The township dissolved its Planning Commission a couple of months ago for the same reason.  No citizens want to serve.

"We could speculate all day long about what's changed, but ultimately we have to take action.  And in this case, we feel it is the appropriate action to take,” says Commissioner Golden.

The five-member Township Board of Commissioners will officially assume the duties of the Planning Commission and the Shade Tree Commission.  But so what?  Aren't they full-time politicians, sitting around the office all day anyway?

"We are not full-timers,” said Commissioner Golden with a laugh.  “We all have full-time employment outside of being township commissioners."

“Yeah,” I responded. ”But you get paid nicely for being township commissioners, don't you?”

"We are compensated annually at $1,875 per commissioner,” responded Golden. 

That made me think. Maybe this year it's time to thank those who still serve us in our municipalities with little or no pay.

Commissioner Golden says the problem of finding people to serve is shared by municipalities across the state.  He said there are a couple of municipal panels in Lawrence Park that do have active volunteer members.  They are the Zoning Board and the Parks and Recreation Board. The township also has an active volunteer fire department.