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Rotary clubs remake post-war tree memorial along Susquehanna Trail

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Christian Fitzpatrick, Bartlett Tree Experts local manager, left, and employee Paul Sepich, demonstrate to other volunteers proper tree planting techniques during the Trees for the Trail project Sunday, October 20, 2019. Volunteers planted 63 trees Sunday in an effort to replenish the original 1920s planting which was a memorial to WWI veterans. A dedication ceremony for the project will be Nov. 10 at Susquehannock High School.  Bill Kalina photo

In the 1920s, more than 400 trees were planted along a portion of the Susquehanna Trail to honor World War I veterans. Since then, half of those trees have disappeared — but not for long. 

On Sunday, several local Rotary clubs came together to plant new trees and restore the site as a veterans memorial. Since the project's inception, more than 190 sycamore, maple and oak trees have been planted. The group hopes to have planted 200 by spring. 

"I always felt a connection to (the trees)," said Shelly Riedel, a member of the Rotary Club of York. "It's such a treasure for the county."

Project Chairwoman Shelly Riedel talks with volunteers  during the Trees for the Trail project Sunday, October 20, 2019. Volunteers planted 63 trees Sunday in an effort to replenish the original 1920s planting which was a memorial to WWI veterans. A dedication ceremony for the project will be Nov. 10 at Susquehannock High School. Bill Kalina photo

Riedel's organization, alongside the Rotary Club of Southern York County and the Rotary Club of Red Lion-Dallastown, formed a committee leading the Trees for the Trail project. 

On Sunday, Oct. 20, Riedel and more than 60 other community members planted 63 trees. They began planting in fall 2017. 

All of the trees were planted along the trail from Jacobus to the Maryland state border, which spans about 13 miles.

Each tree was planted about 40 to 60 feet from its neighbors, Riedel added.

Kate Fiocchi and her daughter Ella, 2, of Dallastown, exit the registration area at the former Penn Mar Human Services building during the Trees for the Trail project Sunday, October 20, 2019. Kate, a Dallastown High School teacher, heads the school's Interact Club, a youth division of the Rotary Club. Volunteers planted 63 trees Sunday in an effort to replenish the original 1920s planting which was a memorial to WWI veterans. A dedication ceremony for the project will be Nov. 10 at Susquehannock High School. Bill Kalina photo

On Sunday, Nov. 10, a dedication ceremony recognizing the project will take place at 2 p.m. at Susquehannock High School, 3280 Fissels Church Road, Shrewsbury Township.

"We've been very fortunate," Riedel said. "I am absolutely gratified with how many people have joined in with this effort."

Volunteers needed help from several construction companies to drill holes and operate forklifts in order to place the trees, which stand more than 10 feet tall and weigh about 400 pounds each.

Brian Almony, owner of Almony's Home Solutions, works with his son Brody, 11, and Isaiah Voss, 14, left, while planting a maple tree during the Trees for the Trail project Sunday, October 20, 2019. Volunteers planted 63 trees in an effort to replenish the original 1920s planting which were a memorial to WWI veterans. A dedication ceremony for the project will be Nov. 10 at Susquehannock High School. Bill Kalina photo

The original 400 trees were planted in the 1920s by members of the War Mothers' Club, said Riedel.

Local historian Stephen Smith sparked the inspiration to restore the "historic landscape architecture" after he took a class from an adult learning program at Penn State York about the Susquehanna Trail.

With each tree alone costing about $300, Riedel said, an outpouring of donations from local businesses, residents and several municipalities have helped fund the initiative. 

Project planner Jim Holley talks with volunteers during the Trees for the Trail project Sunday, October 20, 2019. Volunteers planted 63 trees Sunday in an effort to replenish the original 1920s planting which was a memorial to WWI veterans. A dedication ceremony for the project will be Nov. 10 at Susquehannock High School. Bill Kalina photo

Jim Holley, a resident of Shrewsbury, decided to get involved with the project after remembering years spent as a kid looking at the trees when traveling down the Susquehanna Trail.

For his part, Holley worked to contact individual property owners in the area to get permission to plant trees on their properties. He also coordinated the location of each tree and worked with contractors to get them delivered to the correct sites.

"It just sounded like a neat thing to do," Holley said Sunday. "Even today, we had over 60 people show up to plant these trees in the rain. Just working with people like that is so wonderful."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.