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German students bring international flavor to Earth Day in Hagerstown

April 20, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Students from Hagerstown's sister city of Wesel, Germany, shovel dirt around a newly planted tree Wednesday during an Earth Week celebration at Oswald Park in the city's North End.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — The Oak Hill neighborhood got another oak tree and Earth Day had an international flavor Wednesday as a group of high school students from Hagerstown’s sister city of Wesel, Germany, watched the tree-planting ceremony Wednesday morning in Oswald Park.

“We’re a Tree City USA, and it’s important for us to keep that heritage alive,” Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said after the ceremony, in which he also read the city’s Earth Week proclamation.

“For a small town, I think we’re more conscientious than larger cities” about environmental issues, he said. Parks, playgrounds, pools, golf courses and other recreational areas are important to the livability of a city, he said.

“Prior to the 1970s, Americans bought enormous V-8 sedans that were slurping down leaded gasoline in massive quantities,” North Hagerstown High School junior Erika Kline told the small crowd at the park. “Big businesses were spewing out harmful chemicals into the air and waters of our nation.”

Kline credited the late U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, with raising public awareness of the environment in the aftermath of a 1969 oil spill off the coast of California.

Nelson helped champion creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, Kline said.

Located near the park are the stately homes of the Oak Hill neighborhood, which Rebecca Rush credited to Clara Hamilton and her daughter, Julia Hamilton Briscoe, who offered the city a land development plan for the area in 1905.

Rush, the outreach coordinator for the Oak Hill Project, said the plan included elements of the Garden City Movement, an urban planning movement of that period that incorporated greenspace in development. Hamilton maintained ownership of the trees on the lots she sold, which required homeowners to get her permission for their  removal, Rush said.

As the new oak provided by Antietam Tree and Landscape was planted, Lilija Amamitch and Tim Steckelbroeck, high school students from Wesel, thanked the city for inviting their group to the ceremony.

“You’re country is filled with kind-hearted people,” Amamitch said.
Steckelbroek said they hoped the tree would grow like the friendship between the sister cities.

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