If there’s a strong storm and a big tree falls down over your driveway onto your front lawn, who is supposed to cut it up and haul it away?

Does the task fall to you, or the local department of public works?

In New Jersey there is no easy answer to this question.

“In some communities, the town may decide they’re going to provide some level of service in removal of those branches. In other communities ... that’s going to be left to the homeowner,” Michael Darcy, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said.

He said it’s very similar to when the leaves come off of the trees in the fall — towns have different rules and policies for that cleanup, too.

“Some of them require you to compost it or take care of it through a landscaping company. Others will say you have to bag them and put them at the curb. And still others will say you can just rake them to the curb and they’ll be vacuumed up," Darcy said.

Darcy said it's a matter for municipal governing bodies and the people they serve to decide — just how much tax money, if any, should be spent on those kinds of  services.

There are other considerations as well.

“You may have a public works department that is over-stretched, due to other needs of the community, and adding this level of service just isn’t possible without a significant additional cost,” he said.

Darcy added residents may want this service, “but once they find out what it would cost or require to provide it, they may change their minds.”

While some New Jerseyans might assume tree removal services would be provided by their towns because property taxes are very high, Darcy said one doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.

“There’s no such thing as a free chipping service or a free log removal service. It costs everybody somewhere along the line,” he said.

So if a tree falls on your land, he recommends contacting your local town to find out what services may or may not be offered.

“You may have a shade tree commission that might want to get involved, and for example if you tree got uprooted and removed, your shade tree commission might offer to find you a replacement tree,” he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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