West Cape May donates rare ‘Space Shuttle Tree’ to Coast Guard

Coast Guard Training Center Cape May NewsCAPE MAY, N.J. –The Borough of West Cape May donated a “Space Shuttle Tree” to Coast Guard Training Center Cape May on Wednesday.

Mayor Pam Kaithern from the Borough of West Cape May presented the tree to Capt. Bill Kelly, commanding officer of Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, on behalf of the citizens of West Cape May during a ceremony at the training center. The tree is one of 35 trees germinated from seeds taken to space by NASA Astronaut Gregory T. Linteris, a New Jersey native, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997.

“We’d like to recognize the service and sacrifice of men and women of the Coast Guard here in our community and across the Nation,” said the Mayor. “This tree is a symbolic token of our appreciation for all you do for our community and the American people.”

According to the Borough of West Cape May Deputy Mayor Peter Burke, the Borough of West Cape May Shade Tree Commission won the tree in a lottery with other New Jersey cities at a New Jersey Shade Tree Federation meeting in Cherry Hill, N.J., October 2011. The Borough of West Cape May made the decision to donate the tree to the Coast Guard to signify the positive and beneficial relationship between the service and the citizens of West Cape May.

“We are pleased to accept the role as caretaker for the tree and are pleased to plant it in a place of honor at the training center,” said Kelly. “We not only recognize the tree’s uniqueness, but the ultimate sacrifice made by the crew of the Columbia in the furtherance of science and human knowledge.”

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Miles Barrett, a chaplain aboard the training center, blessed the tree, and the guests remembered the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven in 2003. The Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Kelly planted the tree and put on the last layer of soil down to cover the tree.

The seeds for the Space Shuttle Trees, which are Easter white pines, were taken up during the 22nd flight of Columbia, and they traveled more than 1.5 million miles while aboard the shuttle. The New Jersey Forestry Service actually cultivated and cared for the Space Shuttle Trees until they were donated to the New Jersey Shade Commission.

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