By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
MONROE CITY, Mo. -- Carla Coleman noticed that the trees -- like the memories of those they were supposed to honor -- were fading away.
As a member of the Monroe City Parks and Recreation Board, Coleman often gets requests for memorial trees. When a member of a family or a friend died, the idea to plant a tree in that person's honor would follow. This new life would grow in memory of a life that was gone. But the burly branches often went unnoticed.
The leaves fell, time passed, and eventually the tree either died or blended into the park, no longer seen as a memorial.
"Sometimes trees just kind of disappear," Coleman said.
After visiting a space set aside for memorial trees in Palmyra, Coleman sought to bring something equally as honorable to Monroe City. Now, 20 trees stand proudly along Monroe City's Memorial Tree Drive around South Lake south of the city, and plans from the Missouri Department of Conservation indicate more to come.
Tim Frevert, a consultant commissioned by the Department of Conservation's Forestry Division, has recommended 16 different types of native trees to incorporate into the drive. Frevert explained that the Department of Conservation has offered the service to communities for more than 40 years to encourage them to care for their trees.
"They want communities to see their trees as a public resource and one that they can manage," Frevert said.
The narrow gravel road that wraps around South Lake south of Monroe City is ideal for the Memorial Tree Drive. For Coleman, this scenic route invokes a sense of peace and serenity. When consulting Frevert, Coleman and the Parks Board ask him for advice on maintaining the area's natural look. While they sought guidance, members of the Parks Board also wanted the drive to look as though it belonged in Monroe City. Frevert recommended native trees such as the autumn blaze maple, legacy maple, swamp white oak, tulip poplar and bald cypress.
"It's just this real nice, semi-remote area that was really peaceful," Frevert said.
Coleman said Monroe City residents use the lake for fishing or jogging, but it and the surrounding property aren't used as a traditional active park. While the spot lacks recreational amenities, it embodies a sense of reflection and nature.
A donor may choose from the list of trees and locations around the lake for planting them that Frevert recommended. Each autumn, the city will plant the 6-foot trees along the memorial drive. In the next year, the city plans to place a directory in the park so that donors can locate their memorial trees.
The Monroe City High School class of 1971 has contributed three of the 20 trees currently lining the drive. Class member JoLynn Yates said her class had generated quite a bit of money and wanted to contribute to something meaningful. The group donated one tree to honor deceased classmates, one for the Sisters of St. Dominic at Holy Rosary Church and another for all of the teachers at Monroe City R-1 Schools. Additionally, Yates and her husband donated a tree to honor their deceased parents.
"I just think that there's nothing more lasting and contributes to the beauty of your community than to plant and take care of good trees," Yates said.
A new tree costs $175 to $275. The city plants, waters and mulches the trees. Anyone interested in donating a memorial tree may view pictures of the approved trees at the City Hall complex in Monroe City.