This is how you do it

when you plant a memorial tree. The Awards Committee of the New York State Urban Forestry Council sought applications last fall to reward communities that had been a Tree City USA for at least the past five years. I went to Glen Island Park in New Rochelle to celebrate one of the winning entries. Competitors had to describe why they deserved what we were calling a “big tree”: “a large specimen tree in a prominent site within the community, accessible to the public.” This effort was made in conjunction with New Rochelle’s 28th year as a Tree City USA.

There is a beautiful beach on the Long Island Sound that opens officially for the season tomorrow.

The application from the Westchester Parks Foundation had really pulled at my heartstrings. Submitted by Erin Cordiner, it talked about the time of Covid, how it had affected New Rochelle in so many ways. Erin has just been promoted from volunteer organizer to director of philanthropy, and I’m sure she’ll do a bang up job. The first Covid sufferer in New York state, a lawyer, lived in New Rochelle . After being put in a medically induced coma, Patient Zero survived. After that a perimeter was set all around the area of the city deemed at that early moment the most contagious place in America. New Rochelle took a punch to the gut.

Westchester County has 50 parks. In her application, Erin talked about how important the county’s 18,000-acre park system was during the pandemic, when people desperately needed the wellness benefits of being outside because they couldn’t go to ballfields, restaurants, concerts, you name it.

The Park was being spiffed up for its opening.

A throng of volunteers arrived and were instructed by volunteer coordinator Adam Lippman.

Dignitaries arrived – from County Executive George Latimer to the Parks Commissioner and the chair of the Westchester Parks Foundation’s board.

The Foundation used its grant money to select a three-inch caliper ball-and-burlap tree. It would stand across from New York’s first COVID testing site, an imposing series of white tents. Today it was being dismantled. Hope!

I shook as many hands as I could, still relishing being able to reach out and touch someone after our long journey.

The tupelo is healthy and beautiful.

The tree and the memorial will last years into the future, when we are telling our grandkids about the nightmare of the pandemic.

I am going to quote from Erin’s eloquent application

“Let us stand together now, through this memorial and remember that parks have been here for us when we needed them most and reminid decision makers of the critical role that parks continue to play in our lives. Let this memorial serve as a reminder, when this crisis passes, that parks played a role in our healing, and the importance of parks related to the well-being of our community. Parks have the power to transform lives, to save lives, and to heal lives. Let us never forget this.”

She could have been talking about trees. Like this ever-hopeful gingko at Glen Island Park.

Application are just going out for the next round of “big tree” grants. If your community might be interested, contact me here.

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