- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - The loss of a loved one can be softened for some through special public memorials.

The Mandan Park District began offering a memorial tree program about one year ago. Since then, six memorial trees have been planted so people have a special place to pause and remember.

“We have two at the Municipal Golf Course, one at Legion Park and three at Prairie West Golf Golf Course,” said Kara Haff, marketing manager for the Mandan Park District and Raging Rivers Water Park.

Staff will provide a list of trees suitable for the location they have chosen and ones durable enough to withstand North Dakota’s extremes.

“They can participate in the planting or we can take care of it,” Haff said.

After a planting, memorials also are placed on a living tree memorial at the lobby of the Prairie West Golf Course. Loved ones can engrave words in the gold leaves of the tree to identify the memorial.

Haff said in one family, a group of daughter-in-laws honored their late mother-in-law with a tree and surprised their husbands. The family held a special ceremony.

“The husbands were bawling,” she said.

Another memorial at the Municipal Golf Course pays tribute to a mother and father. Haff said not all memorials are for lost loved ones.

“It can can commemorate a birth, an event or a wedding,” Haff said. “It could be celebrating beating breast cancer.”

She added she is working on a data base detailing who the tree is for, what year it was planted, the type of tree and location.

“We’ll make sure it’s taken care of,” Haff said.

The Morton County Park Board approved a new park memorial program this spring. Memorial applications are first made to the Morton County Parks office.

Morton County Parks Superintendent Tim Nilsen said the county park system will work to obtain permission from the state Game and Fish Department or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if needed. Morton County Park Board member Andy Zachmeier said the new policy allows trees, benches and even picnic benches. The benches can have a plaque placed on it to identify who the memorial is for, Nilsen said. The entities have a list of trees allowed at each park location for memorials.

People cannot plant one without the entities’ permission, Zachmeier said.

Cost will depend on what you want placed there and what market rates are for materials. Nilsen said there are four different sizes of benches to pick from

He said the program started because a request was made to place a tree and a bench at Graner Park for a loved one.

“Somebody else might want to place one at Sweet Briar Dam,” he said.

Material costs are covered by the families, Nilsen said. The park district will try to place the memorial in the area requested, but it depends on what the Game and Fish Department or corps allows.

Beth Peske, urban forestry specialist for the Bismarck City Forestry Department, said tree memorials there are coordinated between the city forestry department and the Bismarck Park District. Tree memorials have been available in Bismarck since the late 1980s. About 50 tree memorials are planted throughout the city, she said.

“We work with the family to put the right tree with the right park,” she said. “We get a variety of requests. It can be for memorials or the birth of a child.”

“It’s a place they watch, look at and remember,” Peske added.

Peske said people like how trees can be an enduring, living thing that can represent the memory of their family member or happy events. The trees are usually placed in favorite parks or a walking trail the person liked to walk, she explained.

“We are working on an online map of dedicated trees,” she said.

Peske said generally policy is to use more mature trees that are 5 or 6 feet instead of seedlings when creating a memorial tree.

Costs of the trees and plaques are paid for by the family.

Burleigh County Park Commissioner Brian Bitner said the county does not have a tree memorial policy. “We would consider it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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