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Memorial tree program honors town’s residents while beautifying city parks

The city of Ravenswood in West Virginia found that invasive pests, weather or over-maturation had damaged many of the trees in its parks. This not only led to unsightly community spaces but also created safety hazards from falling limbs. To combat these issues, urban forestry Extension educators teamed with city planners to introduce the Ravenswood Memorial Tree Program, allowing residents to plant a tree in memory of a deceased loved one. The plantings replaced the damaged and dying trees, with each new tree marked by a commemorative plaque. Adding to the community beautification potential, residents could also choose between a commemorative bench or swing to honor their family member.

As of 2018, the program has added 42 trees to Ravenswood’s landscape, restoring the beauty of the town’s parks and riverfront district. Over the next 25 years, the planting of these trees will provide more than $10,000 in economic benefits to the city, such as air quality improvement, reduction of carbon dioxide and storm water runoff savings through the interception of 1.4 million gallons of rainfall.

The response was so positive that planners have had to scout additional locations for future plantings. Due to an outpouring of community support, totaling $39,000 in donations, the City of Ravenswood received two awards from the West Virginia Municipal League for community enrichment and cost reduction.