By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — If eight men wearing face masks stood by a newly planted tree on Public Square in the middle of the week, would anyone notice?
Sam Troy, Mayor George Brown and Larry Newman were among the group and hoped the tree would get the attention.
“The idea here is to recognize and acknowledge the essential workers, the health care workers, other people, that during the COVID situation, gave above and beyond,” said Brown.
Along with the others, four of the five city council members and John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, the mayor Wednesday morning gathered by the linden tree for a low-key ceremony at 9 a.m. on the mostly empty Square.
“We thought a tree was more suitable to honor their efforts rather than a collective, ‘Thank you’, or something,” said Troy, a member of the city Shade Tree Commission.
The hope is that it will take root to be a lasting and fitting tribute and add to the canopy of towering trees, added Newman, executive director of the downtown revitalization organization, the Diamond City Partnership.
“Part of the goal here is to plant something that is going to provide shade to the community here on Public Square,” said Newman.
The new tree could easily reach the height of the surrounding trees and grow as high as 50 to 80 feet, Newman estimated.
Across the Square stood the stump of an oak tree that was hollow and had to be taken down before it fell and injured someone, Brown noted. “This is going to be replacing that,” he said of the young tree’s place in the public space.
The total for the tree and planting by Green Valley Landscaping Inc. of Plains Township cost an estimated $650 with the city and the Shade Tree Commission, the DCP and council members each contributing a third.
Still to be added will be some sort of marker on the significance of the tree.
“I think one motto for the plaque, when we get it, with the mayor’s permission and get a collective agreement on this is, ‘To honor the extraordinary efforts of extraordinary people,’ something like that. Because as we said, they put their lives on the line for everybody,” said Troy.
This could be the beginning of a citywide campaign for the Shade Tree Commission, said Troy.
“We’re getting ambitious now,” said Troy. “We’re not going to stop at one, hopefully. In fact, I had a broad ambition. I don’t know if it’s feasible, but I’d like to see one of these trees to honor these health care workers in each voting district of the city.”
Troy said maybe there could be a fund set up for the purpose of planting trees in the five districts. “That’s a pipe dream right now. You never know,” he said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.