Pennsylvania’s Erie County Conservation District (ECCD) teamed up with an Eagle Scout candidate to establish a new trail that will combine forest education with honoring community loved ones.
In June, the district kicked off the Memorial Tree Trail project, planting the first tree in honor of the late Phil Fatica, a conservation district advocate. More trees will be planted this fall, and the district hopes to expand the project in conjunction with its spring seedling sale.
“We’ve always wanted to have some sort of tree identification plan at the district,” Tom McClure, district manager, said.
“We’ve also had this idea amongst our staff of what do we do to establish a memorial garden or a brick walkway, but we’ve never had the planning in place,” McClure said.
The trail begins in the front of the district office building, which is located in an open industrial park. As the community responds and purchases the 20 trees available to choose from, the district hopes to have a trail marked with 100 trees that winds around the structure and into the adjacent property.
The district office is near Headwaters Park, a 70-acre recreational area managed by the district. There are conservation practices that the district demonstrates within the park along with a 2.5-mile trail system.
The Memorial Tree Trail project may one day link with the park trail system, but for now, the district’s goal is to provide an educational opportunity in conjunction with recreation outside of the woods, McClure said.
When a memorial tree is purchased, the donor may choose a native Pennsylvania tree from a predetermined list as well as include a quote or saying, some written memento, to have inscribed on a plaque to accompany the tree. Plaques have a leaf print to represent the name of the tree, species and genus.
The first one reads: “Pin Oak, (quercus palustris), In Memory of Phil Fatica, A friend in conservation” and identifies Erie County Conservation District as the donor.
“He was the district’s liaison to the county government, and he was a great advocate,” McClure said. “He really opened the door for our relationship with the county government, so we thought dedicating the first tree to him was appropriate.”