Trees to benefit the landscape and remember those lost to the pandemic, violence, and other causes will take root as a living memorial in the City of Harrisburg on Memorial Day weekend.
“There’s a lot of devastation and trauma in our community,” Harrisburg resident Rafiyqa Muhammad said. “This memorial a chance to work through grief, but also to learn how we can reforest a beautiful area like this.”
The project called “They’re Just Away” at Reservoir Park, is a collaborative effort by state, city, and local officials, spearheaded by Muhammad. She plans to donate the trees for the planting on May 30.
Muhammad envisions the project on ground where she played as a child as “Giving people and families and individuals who have lost loved ones, who will get a tree, an area to reflect and have some down time.”
The donated trees and supplies are part of the $5,000 prize given to Muhammad by the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership, when the partnership presented her the 2020 Mira Lloyd Dock award for her conservation and urban beautification work in under-represented portions of her community. The partnership is coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania.
“This living memorial is an opportunity to foster healing to residents of Harrisburg who have lost their loved ones due to police violence, mental illness, suicide, or COVID-19,” said Carla Eissing, CBF Grassroots Manager in Pennsylvania. “It’s a way they can nurture and care for a living entity in their loved ones’ honor and hopefully find a way to channel their grief in a way that supports their own healing and the healing of the city they call home.”
About 25 trees will be planted at the start of the multi-year project, and families can still request applications to receive memorial trees by emailing Muhammad at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who get a memorial tree must make a two-year commitment to care for it. “Trees are just like babies, and they have to be taken care of,” Muhammad said.
“With urban life, we don’t know that much about plants, and air and environment because we feel like that’s just for rural or suburban areas,” Harrisburg City Councilwoman Jocelyn Rawls said. She chairs the Department of Parks and Recreation. “But it’s for urban areas too and it’s going to give our urban kiddos and parents a different look at what the environment is around them.”
Audubon Mid-Atlantic and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) as the Kittatinny Conservation Landscape Coalition is donating $5,000 in the form of native plants to make the gardens around the living memorial trees even more beautiful.
“The Kittatinny Ridge runs along here, and this is a great place because it’s an international bird flyway for migration,” Kristen Hand, DCNR internal leader for the conservation landscape program said. “You can think of areas like this as way stations for birds as they are traveling up the coast. Parks like this can be an oasis for them to get what they need as far as food, water, and shelter from storms.”
“The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation is supporting this locally-driven community conservation program at Reservoir Park to increase bird-friendly habitat in Harrisburg, encourage inclusive environmental leadership, support neighborhood beautification efforts, and make conservation work relevant to surrounding communities,” said Jeanne Barrett Ortiz, Senior Program Manager of Landscape Conservation at Audubon Mid-Atlantic.
The memorial park will also help restore the historic Reservoir Park, which was put into place by Mira Lloyd Dock herself and is now home to the Civil War Museum.
Dock is recognized as the first Pennsylvania woman to lead the way in forest conservation. Dock teamed up with Harrisburg businessman J. Horace McFarland on a Harrisburg plan that built 900 acres of new city parks, public lakes, athletic fields, playgrounds, and sewage control that won national attention. plant and sewer lines.