Serving as a tribute to area residents’ loved ones, the Memorial Tree Program is continuing to take root at Sam Smith Park. Spearheaded by Suzi Justus and Lane Peters in 2009, the effort — that includes more than 80 trees — now is overseen by the Cartersville Parks and Recreation Department.
“Sam Smith Park is pretty wide open except on our ridgelines,” said Greg Anderson, director of the Cartersville Parks and Recreation Department.
“We built the Etowah Riverwalk, which was the first thing that went on Sam Smith Park. [It is] our 2.4-mile trail around that park. ... [When] people go in and build parks, the first thing they do is they go in and they take everything down, grade it down. Then they plant new trees to come back. We didn’t do this at Sam Smith Park because it was agriculture. But trees are wonderful for parks. They make good shade. They’re gorgeous to look at, and we wanted trees around our riverwalk.
“[Feedback on the program has] been nothing but positive. We sell these [trees] from the first of July until the end of October, then we place our order for our trees and for our markers. We do our planting — normally it’s either right at the end of November or the first of December, which is the most favorable time to plant trees. Then a lot of times the families that purchase these, they’ll want to come out. ... They may even want to help with planting the trees.”
Through Nov. 1, people can participate in the Memorial Tree Program by purchasing either an oak or October glory red maple. Costing $475, the trees and memorial markers will be installed along The Living Tree Memorial Walk at the park’s Etowah Riverwalk.
“Lane and I started The Living Tree Memorial Walk because we felt led that people in this community may not have a place to go to ‘visit’ a loved one that has passed away,” Justus said. “My oldest, [brother, David], was killed in an automobile accident and the cemetery is located in Norcross and my other brother, Greg, passed away of cancer and he chose to be cremated. Lane’s sister, Beth, was also killed in an automobile accident. So I really didn’t have a place close to go walk and have a place to pay tribute to them both. We also wanted to help beautify the park and [for] community members [to] have a place to go to help them remember those they have lost.
“Basically, it was just myself, Lane and a Boy Scout troop that planted all the trees and markers. Sadly, we had to stop the walk because we were told that the trees would not live and the granite company went up greatly on their cost. We are so happy that all our trees are alive and have grown so beautifully over the years. I love going out there and seeing all the people walk along the path and stop and read the markers. It’s nice to have something different and unique, and I’m proud Lane and I created this in memory of our very, very special siblings.”
For more information about the Memorial Tree Program, call Anderson at 770-607-6173 or visit http://www.cityofcartersville.org/545/Memorial-Tree-Program.