Elm Tree Planted at Bicentennial Park

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Rooted in Honor

Troop 177 Dedicates American Liberty Elm as Service Project

By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, September 26, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

WE ARE PREPARED! -- Members of Troop 177 gather around the newly planted American Liberty Elm tree at Bicentennial Park for a benediction at the conclusion of the dedication ceremony.
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

Bicentennial Park at North Beach is now home to a newly planted American Liberty Elm tree, thanks to a collaborative effort between Hampton's Boy Scout Troop 177, an anonymous Rotary Club donor, and numerous others in the Seacoast area community.

About 50 people were in attendance when the troop conducted an official dedication ceremony during the early evening of Thursday, September 18. The tree, obtained through the Elm Research Institute in Keene, had been planted and prepped earlier in the week with assistance from the Friends of Bicentennial Park. The group is responsible for the extensive rejuvenation and beautification that has recently taken place at the oceanfront site.

The planting and dedication of the American Liberty Elm was just one in a series of activities and events Troop 177 has held this year in observance of its 75th anniversary. And according to Larry Marsolais, committee chairman for Troop 177, it's a good opportunity for the Scouts to give back to the town.

"It's a good service project for them [and] for the beach," he said. "This is a nice park; [the tree] adds to it."

The ceremony began with the Troop presenting the colors and conducting the Pledge of Allegiance. Senior Patrol Leader, Dan Argue, offered a welcome to all in attendance and recognized those who were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition.

Among those individuals so acknowledged were Elizabeth Webb of Hampton's Shade Tree Commission; John and Linda Gebhart and other members of the Friends of Bicentennial Park; Bud and Lois DesRochers, who coordinated the placement of the tree and its commemorative stone; Chet and Dianne Riley (for the stone) and Roger Syphers (for placing the plaque on the stone).

Also acknowledged were Town Manager Fred Welch and Hampton Recreation Director Dyana Martin; John Price of the Public Works Department; Frank Swift for site preparation and planting; Churchill's Garden Center (for loam) and Filtrine Manufacturing, which handled purchasing and transporting the tree from Keene to Hampton.

SPL Argue thanked the anonymous Rotary Club member who provided "a significant financial contribution" that helped make the $2500 project possible. Also noted was Robert "Renny" Cushing, who as a state representative in 1997 sponsored a resolution calling for the restoration of elm trees along Route 1.

"Let's hope that this Liberty Elm will inspire our town to bring elms back to our section of this historic road and elsewhere in town," said SPL Argue.

After providing a brief history of elms in the Hampton area, their devastation by Dutch Elm Disease and the development of the Elm Research Institute's Liberty Elm program, SPL Argue told the crowd that the organization "developed a program for Boy Scout troops to plant Liberty Elms in their communities."

Observing that "2008 is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Troop 177 in Hampton," SPL Argue noted, "We believe that this Liberty Elm is a fitting memorial for all that the troop has contributed to the community and a reminder to every Scout and Scouter to continue in that tradition."

HONORABLE SERVICE -- Ansell Palmer, one of Troop 177's first members 75 years ago, places a shovelful of soil at the base of the American Liberty Elm at Bicentennial Park.
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]

Playing a significant part in the dedication service was Ansell Palmer, an original member of Troop 177 when it was first formed in 1933. Palmer was the first to place a ceremonial shovelful of soil at the base of the elm tree; he was followed in kind by the Pedro Patrol, Troop 177's newest members.

The ceremony continued with the unveiling of the memorial plaque, affixed to a stone that stands in front of the tree. Leaders from Troop 177's Frontiersmen Patrol and Flaming Arrow Patrol removed a length of fabric to reveal the plaque, which was read aloud by one of the Scouts: "This American Liberty Elm was named after "The Liberty Tree: Our Country's First Symbol of Freedom." On the morning of August 14, 1765, the people of Boston awakened to discover two effigies suspended from an elm tree in protest of the hated Stamp Act. From that day forward, that elm became known as "The Liberty Tree." It stood in silent witness to countless meetings, speeches and celebrations, and became the rallying place for the Sons of Liberty. In August of 1775, as a last act of violence prior to their evacuation of Boston, British Soldiers cut it down because it bore the name "Liberty."

The Scout added, "It is very fitting that this Liberty Elm should have a prominent place in our Bicentennial Park."

The ceremony continued with a poem read by Scoutmaster Doug Aykroyd, and the presentation of a letter from the Scouts to Hampton Selectman Bill Lally. The letter, read by Scout Alex Cawley, formalized in writing the troop's "commitment to service" both past and future.

"We the Scouts of Troop 177 recognize the contributions made to our community for 75 years by the Scouts of our troop who have come before us," Cawley read. "We pledge to do our best to be ready to continue to serve our community into the future."

The ceremony concluded with Troop 177, clasping hands in a circle around the tree, holding a traditional closing and benediction, and reciting the chant, "Be prepared!" "We ARE prepared!"

"It was an exciting opportunity," said Scoutmaster Aykroyd following the ceremony. "It came out of the blue."

Taking on the American Liberty Elm project for this portion of Hampton, he added, broadens the boys' own perception of Scouting.

"When we go camping [and] hiking, they have a good time," said Aykroyd. "[When] doing ceremonies like this they see the other side of Scouting, which is equally important." In fact, he added, he heard one Scout say, "I'm proud I was here tonight."

The two Scouts who unveiled the plaque during the dedication ceremony are shown in this photograph.
[Atlantic News Photos by Liz Premo]

To find out more about the American Liberty Elm tree program visit www.landscapeelms.com; for more about Troop 177 visit www.bsatroop177.org.