Arbor Day in Williamsport brings laughter, joy, memories
Williamsport’s Arbor Day was a sight to behold.
Under a clear blue sky with just a bit of nip in the afternoon air Friday, those who gathered for the annual ceremony at Brandon Park, near the soon-to-be repainted roundhouse, were treated to nature at its finest and a few nice surprises.
Among those was the dedication of a park bench in honor and named for a longtime city resident who was once one of those volunteers tending to the gardens at the park’s entrance near Market Street.
A jet-black painted bench with Frank Pugliese’s name emblazoned on a plaque in the center now welcomes visitors to the city’s crown jewel and urban forest.
“I didn’t think it would ever happen,” Pugliese said, joined by his daughters Lisa Knauff and Diane Crisman as he tried the bench out for size.
Pugliese recalled how he joined a crew with the late Dr. Kenneth Cooper, which devoted their time to maintaining the park entrance and its flower beds.
He even provided the park with its fair share of squirrel population.
“Frank trapped squirrels at this house” and dropped them off to roam in the park, a relative said to a bit of chuckling.
Members of the Brandon Park Commission welcomed the guests who gathered.
Welcoming remarks by Debbie Allison, commission chair, were followed by Pledge of Allegiance and Arbor Day Proclamation by Mayor Derek Slaughter.
Allison — in a tribute to the park’s 131-year
history — noted how in 1898 after a flood of historic record left people having to use the open space to set up tents because it was elevated high enough from the downtown and the river cresting, that year, city resident Andrew Boyd Cummings gave the park as a gift to the city and named it to honor the memory of his sister, Jane, who had married into the Brandon family, and who died on Sept. 13, 1840.
The history lesson was followed by the traditional presentation of the trees and benches. Brandon Park Commission members Allison, Jennifer Dudek, William F. McConnell, Spring Moore, Ron Diemer and Dennis Loner made the day a success.
This year, Arbor Day honors and memorials in 2021 and 2022 and it included five trees, three benches and two picnic tables.
Trees had been planted in memory of loved ones with the assistance of the streets and parks department, which maintains the park and keeps it in top shape.
The trees included:
• A “Snowcap” Japanese Tree Lilac planted in memory of E. Marie Campana by Galen and Christina Beach.
• A red oak in memory of Cliff Roberts by Diane Kieser, a Red Maple in memory of Ruth and Leland Calistri by the Calistri children.
• A red oak in loving memory of Donald Justice Sr. by Donald, Stephanie, Heath, Haedyn and Jhett Justice.
• A red oak by the DuBoistown Garden Club.
The benches were named in memory of Dr. Kenneth and June Cooper with love from Cody, Catalina and Elizabeth; for Ralph A. Nardi Jr., dedicated lifelong citizen of Williamsport; a picnic table by Ron and Cynde Eister and a bench and picnic table by the DuBoistown Garden Club.
Special thanks was given to the DuBoistown Garden Club and Don Sinclair for their volunteer work along with the city streets and parks (public works) department who maintain the park, monitor the trees and mow and mulch.
“Arbor Day is not like other holidays; each of those reposes on the past while Arbor Day proposes for the future,” J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day founder, once stated.
The National Arbor Day Foundation, in fact, considers the holiday an occasion in which to intensify efforts of offsetting carbon emissions, advocate for environmental justice, build healthier communities and protect the planet by planting more trees. Millions of them.
Brandon Park has plenty of these trees, including many planted in Arbor Day events of the past.
The park is scheduled for continued maintenance throughout the year by members of the public works department.
It will also be a location for a Williamsport Area High School project later this spring and the two Brandon Park ballfields are on tap to be made playable again because of the availability of American Rescue Plan funds that were budgeted for that recreational purpose.