Reforestation of the Flight 93 National Memorial site will begin this spring.
National Park Service Assistant Superintendent Keith Newlin said at Saturday's meeting of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission the planting of the memorial groves of trees will begin this spring. Groves 1 through 24, out of 40, will be done. Each grove consists of 40 trees. The additional groves will be planted after wetlands issues are working out. An additional 20 acres of trees will also be planted north of Ring Road.
"We've had a very positive response in donations and we've received support from the Office of Surface Mining," Newlin said. "Their support is necessary so that the reforestation is done correctly for the survival of the trees on reclaimed mining land."
The 20 acres of trees will provide a windbreak for the 40 memorial groves. One grove is being planted in memory of each of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, which crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, in Stonycreek Township.
"I'm excited about the memorial groves," said Donna Glessner, vice chairwoman of the commission who chaired Saturday's meeting. The majority of the members were on a telephone conference call because of the uncertainty of weather in February. "Each grove is one acre with 40 trees. It will be a beautiful addition to the memorial."
Many people have already volunteered to help plant trees. Only 20 vacant volunteer spots are available on each of the days that trees will be planted. Anyone who wants to volunteer should contact the Flight 93 Memorial office.
National Park Service Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said about 265,000 people visited the memorial in 2011, an increase of at least 250 percent over 2010. He anticipates between 350,000 and 400,000 people will visit in 2012.
Because of the large number of people visiting, an overflow parking lot is going to be developed to hold 100 to 125 vehicles. A shuttle bus was used in the spring and summer to bring visitors in from parking in the fields because it was not uncommon for the 70-car lot to be filled by 11 a.m. each day.
The park rangers are working on ways to tell the story of Flight 93, including ranger talks, additional publications and a recording that people could listen to on their cell phones, to supplement what is already being done.
"One day in January, it was a typical Somerset County day, cold and the snow was blowing sideways with whiteouts and 30 to 40 people came," Reinbold said. "A lot of them still walked to the wall of names. There are many individual stories of the lengths people go to visit. It's inspiring."
Glessner notified the members that Daniel Sullivan, a member of the advisory commission since it was organized in 2003, has resigned as of Dec. 31. Sullivan has retired from his position with Fed-Ex Ground.
"Many will remember Dan was instrumental in fundraising, he accomplished a lot," Reinbold said. "We are thankful for his commitment."
The National Park Foundation, the fundraising arm, is continuing to work with former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush and Speaker of the House John Boehner who attended the 10th anniversary ceremony in September and pledged to help with private fundraising. A series of activities are being planned. So far, private donations have gone more than $25 million. Together, public and private donations have exceeded $52 million.