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Ceremony marks 25th anniversary of effort to save historic district's elms

Ceremony marks 25th anniversary of effort to save historic district's elms

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Patti Easton, left, and Margie Zalk Enerson place a heart on the ribbon circling an American elm on Avenue C in Bismarck on Thursday evening. The women were among volunteers placing the red ribbons and hearts on trees in the Cathedral Area Historic District as part of Arbor Day. This year is the 25th anniversary of a movement to save elm trees in the historic district.

Local preservationists, neighbors and a few dozen school children on Friday commemorated the 25th anniversary of a movement to save elm trees in Bismarck's Cathedral Area Historic District.

More than 120 elm trees were targeted for removal in order to widen Washington Street in the late 1990s, but they were saved through the efforts of local activists.

Margie Zalk Enerson, who moderated the Arbor Day event, said future children were in community activists' minds when they worked to save the trees.

"It was my hope 25 years ago as a mom, and soon to be with a newborn, that I wanted my children to grow up with nature around them, with strong healthy trees," she said. "The trees did have a purpose."

Several local preservationists spoke about the importance of remembering history during the ceremony. Former City Commissioner Connie Sprynczynatyk remarked on her role in saving the trees, as well.

"I don't live in this neighborhood, but I love this neighborhood," she said. "I love the fact that all of us worked very, very hard with many, many, many years of controversy. We finally found agreement, and today we celebrate the elms." 

The surviving trees still line the street. They were wrapped in red ribbon to commemorate the anniversary. A few trees had to be replaced through the years, and the new ones were wrapped in green. The new trees -- called cathedral elms -- are resistant to Dutch elm disease. Cathedral of the Holy Spirit Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary students helped to decorate the trees for the occasion.

Katherine Satrom, who has lived in the Cathedral District for around 45 years, attended Friday's event.

"It's delightful to see the preservation," she said. "It's so important to the quality of the neighborhood."

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or sam.nelson@bismarcktribune.com.

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