A Brief History of FMST

Friends of Madison Shade Trees  invented itself in 1989.  Its founding members were a notable and knowledgeable group of Madison residents:   Judy Mullins, Cathie Coultas, Sal Luciano, Sam Piccolo, Jane Kruzan, Mary McDaniel, Florence Zuck, Vincent Licari, Jerry Stevenson, and Henry George.

Like the trees in their care, many of that original band are still around and still making Madison greener – Judy Mullins, Cathie Coultas, Sal Luciano, and Vince Licardi are still on the Board of Trustees for FMST, 23 years later.   The goals of FMST have remained the same, too – the planting and care of trees in Madison’s public spaces, educating people about the importance of trees in the ecosystem, establishing close relationships with other local groups of similar interests, such as The Garden Club of Madison, Madison’s Venture Scouts, the Friends of Madison Train Station, The Rotary Club, the Downtown Development Commission, The Parks Commission, and the Shade Tree Management Board.

Friends of Madison Shade Trees  is a non-profit volunteer organization that raises funds through donations and grants for its projects.  It uses no  --  and it has never used any  -- tax dollars in its work.

FMST Trustees steer community enhancing projects that green public space.  What started out as a labor of love, and volunteer community spirit, has grown into significant public landscape projects, the development of pocket parks, and the acceptance of over $350,000 dollars of grant monies to keep Madison green.         

FMST’s education goal is to raise community awareness of Madison’s desirable tree lined streets and shade canopy. FMST provides educational displays and public outreach programs through public library showcases, sapling give-always at Arbor Day, and the planning and hands-on assistance during the town wide May Day clean up.   There is always an FMST booth at Bottle Hill Day, Arbor Day/May Day and, more recently, at Madison’s Green Fair.

FMST has offered seminars that encompass such topics as Care of Roses, Renovating Home Landscape Design, Deer, Deer, and More Deer, What to Do. The deer presentation coincided with a resident survey regarding the deer population and its impact on landscape issues in Madison.  These seminars are open to the public and offer professional guest speakers.

Of special note is Rose Garden Park.  In partnership with the Garden Club of Madison a weedy bit of scrub became a lovely pocket park honoring Madison’s history as Rose City USA.  This transformation originated with FMST’s “Teaching Tuesday” Program in the Rose Garden during the growing season. It was further enhanced through the Garden Club of Madison multi-year maintenance assistance for care and upkeep of the park.  The Garden Club’s and FMST’s joint financial assistance assures the integrity of the park and protects the health of these plantings.

Another huge project began in 1999, when FMST was awarded a $100,000 TEA–21 Grant to re-landscape Madison’s Historic Train Station.  Project Manager Judy Mullins and a team of Trustees have been collaborating with Friends of Madison Train Station, New Jersey Transit, and New Jersey Department of Transportation over the last ten years to incorporate this magnificent gothic structure into Madison’s business community and the surrounding corridor.  NJ Transit’s historic restoration and the ADA compliance program have been completed, and so has the FMST transformation of the station landscape.  FMST has used professionals in creating an historically appropriate design, in selecting native species to be showcased in the public’s view, and in working closely with the Friends of Madison Train Station to develop an excellent maintenance program. 

Although a more complete list is given in the Projects section of this website, among FMST accomplishments are:

  • The re-landscaping of Madison’s westerly entrance at the Madison Avenue Water Tank.  FMST has improved the property by landscaping with native plantings that will not obstruct the building site lines.  The plan will support larger more natural looking beds and a maintenance reduction initiative.  Re-forestation, a multi-year FMST focus, will re-introduce native hardwoods and enhance the shade canopy for Madison’s future generations. 

  • Gibbons Pines Park, a triangular corner and a gateway to town, at Woodland Road and Loantaka Way got a much-needed overhaul with substantial new white pine plantings and the pruning of over 50 mature white pines.. An Eagle Boy Scout project built a battlefield fence, reminiscent of Morris County’s Jockey Hollow fences. This reduced vehicle damage at the park entrance.  The introduction of low maintenance rose bushes allowed Madison’s historical Rose City theme to bring color, serenity, and sense of place for a well traveled secondary corridor.  The park was rescued from development in 1998 when builders, the Borough, and the Morris Land Conservancy declared the irregular tract and rear slope a passive public park.  DeMarzo and Sons’ efforts are recognized by an on-site plaque. 

  • FMST helped develop a Victorian garden of perennials at the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, which is in the heart of Madison’s central business district.  This bed highlights early trade use of ink and dye-producing plants.  

  • In 2004, FMST partnered with Madison’s Affordable Housing Corporation at their first-time home owner project on Elm Street to provide appropriate property trees and foundation screenings for the new housing units.  This was accomplished with the assistance of a memorial donation in honor of Henry George, a founding FMST member and was matched by the trustees to recognize George’s past contributions to the group and Madison. 

  • Ornamental Tree replacements have occurred at both Niles Park and Central Green, neighborhood passive parks that had suffered drought and deer destruction.  FMST supported deer enclosures at Central Green and on the campus of Drew University to closely study forest floor re-growth and to gain insight into deer destruction and strategies for prevention. 

  • A National Tree Trust 2005 Roots Grant provided over $15,000 for 31 flowering pear trees to be planted along the Borough right-of-way running the length of Madison’s east business district to the Chatham border.  This continued the central business district’s flowering Red Spire pear tree theme, unifying and expanding a sense of place when entering Madison.

  • Collaborating with the local Boy Scouts of America, public officials and local arborists, FMST produced a professionally filmed video How to Plant a Balled and Burlap’d Tree.  This educational tool was given to the area schools including all three colleges in town, the Scouts organization, and the public library and was shown at public gatherings.  It can be seen on our website.

  • FMST has taken The Tuttle Oak as a symbol of the value Madison has historically placed on trees, and has kept local folklore alive about General George Washington’s  having tied his horse to The Tuttle Oak.  The Reverend Samuel Tuttle’s love for this specimen white oak on his estate prompted the borough to allow the tree to stand mid road in 1858.  After the declining 300-year old+ tree was downed in a vehicular accident, FMST reused the wood to make oak memorabilia that was used in fund raising efforts.  A three-foot slice of The Tuttle Oak’s biggest branch is on display at the Madison Public Library.  Tuttle Oak Christmas ornaments are still sought after today. 
  • Partnering with the Shade Tree Management Board and the newly formed Madison Playground Committee in 2005, FMST assisted in providing shaded recreation areas for Madison’s children.  Over a dozen October Glory Maples from a former FMST project (the site of the municipal Public Safety Building) were professionally moved to Dodge Field.

  • Resurrecting Madison’s roots, a rose propagation project is working to create young offshoots from the Rotary Red Rose (Meripoux), cared for in Rose Garden Park. Madison’s rose growing heritage dates back to the 1850’s, when vacation home owning philanthropists took up what commenced as a hobby, but grew into an export industry via the train line.  FMST keeps this rose tradition alive in a business relationship with famed Jackson and Perkins.

  • Clearing deadwood and dangerous trees at the Chateau Thierry Park strengthened FMST’s partnership with Madison’s Downtown Development Commission. 

  • Another collaboration for FMST with The Rotary Club of Madison, local master gardeners, and the County extension office was the development of garden allotment plots at the Tucker Senior Citizen Facility, as were new walking paths.