By Kyle Barr
The Smithtown Historical Society is looking to create memories that will last a tree’s lifetime with their most recent project.
The Walk Under the Trees Project intends to recreate the feel of the famous Washington D.C. cherry blossom pathway, encourage the planting of trees and help create a beautiful destination for Long Islanders to visit.
Historical society spokeswoman Priya Kapoor was the driving force behind the project.
“The idea started in the beginning of the year, and we started approaching people back in June,” she said in a phone interview. “We want to make the grounds more welcoming and make it more of a community centered place so that people can walk there, they can bring their kids and their dogs.”
Executive director Marianne Howard said she hopes this project stops Smithtown residents in their tracks.
“We’re always seeking an opportunity to beautify our grounds,” Howard said. “People drive past us and they don’t know we’re here, and this will help people to stop and come look at something beautiful.”
On July 19 the historical society commemorated its first set of trees with John Feal of the FealGood Foundation, and Martin Aponte, president of 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park. The FealGood Foundation, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of 9/11 first responders, donated five trees with the memorial park donating one. The plan is for the trees to line the dirt road to the historical society’s main set of buildings.
Feal is a frequent D.C. visitor himself and is very familiar with the cherry blossom paths there.
“You think of beautiful trees, you think of cherry blossoms,” Feal said in a phone interview. “Every year I go to Washington — only because I have to — to try and get legislation passed, but I sometimes get to see the cherry blossoms.”
Now Feal will not have to drive as far to see those special trees.
Aponte said that for those who work with 9/11 first responders, trees have a big significance for those who worked at Ground Zero.
“After those buildings came down there was one particular tree that stood amongst all the wreckage and debris that was falling,” Aponte said in a phone interview. “They dug it out and got seedlings and saplings and made more trees from that particular survivor tree. We surrounded our park with these survivor trees and they’re growing today. They symbolize that we as Americans are survivors regardless of what happened and the aftermath of it.”
Feal said his organization and the historical society have a good working relationship, and that the history of 9/11 first responders and the town are intertwined.
“9/11 is part of the history of Smithtown,” Feal said. “The memorial park tells the story of the history of 9/11 and the courage and the honor and the sacrifice of the men and women who worked at ground zero, and many of them are from Smithtown.”
The Smithtown Historical Society is accepting donations sponsoring new trees, flower beds and even small donations for bricks in a planned walkway. If you are interested in sponsoring a tree, or for information, contact the historical society offices at 631-265-6768.