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ceremonial tree planting

From left, Town Clerk Vincent Puleo, St. Catherine of Siena Hospital Mary Ellen McCrossen, Senator Mario Mattera, Comptroller John Kennedy, Legislator Leslie Kennedy, Town Councilman Tom McCarthy, Tax Receiver Deanna Varricchio, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, Lorra Caligiuri, Town Councilman Tom Lohmann, Smithtown Sanitation Supervisor Neal Sheehan, Steven Schmalfuss (Parks), Environmental Director David Barnes, Taylor Silvester (DEW) Urban Forrester Tom Colella, and Marcel Caillat (Parks). Photo from Town of Smithtown

On Tuesday, Nov. 23, State, County and local Smithtown officials joined the community in a ceremonial tree planting at Veterans Memorial (Moriches) Park in St. James, commemorating the 475 residents who have died from COVID-19. The memorial ceremony, hosted by Town Officials, the Department of Environment and Waterways, Town Forresters, and the Parks department was part of a Tree City USA Reward Grant. At the end of the ceremony, Smithtown Sanitation Supervisor Neal Sheehan and his sister Lorra Caligiuri led State and local officials in the tree planting, to honor the memory of their parents.

“I would like to first thank our Environmental Director David Barnes, his Foresters; Tom Colella and Robert Barget, who helped select this Dawn Redwood and our parks team for orchestrating the planting… This Dawn Redwood will grow bigger and more prominent each year. And as the holidays draw near, her beautiful red foliage will serve as a reminder that we will never forget the memory of our loved ones taken by this pandemic. My hope is that it brings you comfort. This Redwood will grow here throughout the generations allowing the memory of all 475 Smithtown Residents to live on forever,” said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim.

The memorial tree is a four-inch caliper Dawn Redwood, boasting stunning red foliage in the Fall. The tree was selected by the Department of Environment and Waterways Foresters (certified arborists) under the direction of David Barnes, who is also a renowned Landscape Architect. A plaque unveiling, and name reading ceremony will take place in late Spring of 2022. The memorial plaque will be donated by the Town of Smithtown.

“We were all impacted by the pandemic, whether we lost a loved one or helped a friend grieve. As residents and individuals who serve the community we live in, we wanted to do something to let our town know, we grieve together. This tree is unique, it grows quickly and stands out in an extraordinary manner. The same can be said about the people we loved and lost. This is just one small way we can honor their memory,” said David Barnes, Environmental Protection Director.

The Town of Smithtown has maintained the title of Tree City USA, for 35 years and was recently recognized with a ‘Growth Award’ by the Arbor Day Foundation for Street Tree Care. Since 2020, the Town has inventoried 10,000 street trees, or 20% of the town’s estimated 50,000 total street tree census. The Town of Smithtown has planted 1250 trees since 2019, and has been recognized by the media for proactive management of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species which feeds on specific trees.

For questions or more information regarding the town’s forestry program, to request a planting or maintenance please contact the department during office hours at 631-360-7514.

Photos courtesy of Town of Smithtown