SHANKSVILLE – In an ongoing partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and Penn State DuBois, students, faculty and staff are helping a national memorial take root.
Recently 12 students from the Penn State DuBois Wildlife Technology Program served as team leaders for a full weekend of tree planting at the site where Flight 93 crashed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, in Shanksville.
Joined by faculty and staff, the students used their expertise in environmental stewardship to lead dozens of other volunteers during Plant a Tree at Flight 93, a project intended to reforest a portion of the site that makes up the Flight 93 Memorial.
“I was floored when they called and asked if we would be the support team leaders for this year’s planting,” said Senior Instructor of Wildlife Technology Keely Roen.
“It’s an honor just to be at the memorial, it’s an honor to help at all with the planting, but to have them trust us enough to be a support team and give us this responsibility, there’s no way to put that into words.”
With Roen, her husband Garrett, a campus admission counselor, and Stacy Foster, a lab technician for the wildlife program, the students oversaw the planting of 20,500 seedlings over two days in April.
They helped to sort various species of seedlings, prepare them for planting, and made recommendations on which species would thrive in particular areas of the property due to environmental conditions at a given site.
Some species, for instance, will flourish in wet areas, while others prefer drier environments. Depending on the conditions of the area, teams planted such species of trees as hemlock, chestnut, white pine, red oak, and more. Their aim is to create a forest mixed with hardwood and evergreen trees.
Flight 93 Memorial Superintendent Jeffery Reinbold praised the work of the students in a thank you letter sent to Keely Roen following the Plant a Tree at Flight 93 event.
He said, “We can only offer our thanks for your institution’s continued partnership and for each and every one of your students who served as support staff, mentors, and most importantly, as educators to the volunteers who plant the seedlings.
“Your efforts will be remembered by those who visit this landscape to reflect on the actions of 40 individuals who turned a common field one day into field of honor forever.”
The impact of their work was not lost on student Sara Heverly. She said, “My favorite part about planting was knowing several years down the road I would be able to take my children to the memorial and tell them that I was one of the volunteers that helped plant all those trees. It will be such a great feeling as it has already been.”
That sentiment was shared by Garrett Roen, who as a campus staff volunteer, experienced the same satisfaction as the students.
“By taking part in planting these trees, I’ll be able to go back 20 years from now and say that this forest is here now because a team I was on planted it. That’s a lasting impact.”
Those at the NPS were confident in the skills and knowledge the Penn State DuBois students possess due to previous work conducted by students at the site.
Not only have students in the Wildlife Technology program participated in reforestation efforts at the memorial site before, but last summer students also conducted an invasive species survey there.
Through an internship program, three students were chosen to work directly with the National Park Service (NPS), at the Flight 93 Memorial site. They conducted a survey on the memorial property that surrounds the crash site to identify invasive and noxious species of plant life.
They then provided GPS coordinates for the locations of the plants they found. They then recommended action plans the NPS can take to eradicate the species for the benefit of native species and the overall environment.
This was the third year for Plant a Tree at Flight 93, which will continue annually until the NPS deems that reforestation goals have been adequately met. So far, 73 acres of the site have been planted. Students and faculty from the Penn State DuBois Wildlife Technology program have already been asked to participate as team leaders for next year.
“I’m so proud of the students,” said Keely Roen. “They did a really great job and even exceeded our expectations.”