The next time you visit the , take a moment to look at the tree that has just been planted in the Girl Scout Garden right outside the entrance door.
Awarded in a lottery to New Milford by the N.J. Shade Tree Federation, this white pine tree was grown from one of the seeds that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia that launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 4, 1997.
The white pine seeds were brought into space by astronaut Gregory Linteris on the 22nd flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the 83rd space shuttle mission.
Linteris, who grew up in Demarest and attended Northern Valley Regional High School and Princeton University, was given the seeds by the N.J. Forest Service's Community Forestry Program, in cooperation with the N.J. Community Forestry Council and the Demarest Shade Tree Commission, to take on the mission.
The space shuttle Columbia was the first of NASA's space shuttle programs and completed 27 missions before being destroyed upon re-entry on February 1, 2003 at the completion of its 28th mission. All seven crew members were killed.
Once the seeds were returned they were germinated at the N.J. Forest Services greenhouse in Jackson as part of the Heritage Tree Program.
Steve Perrone, Commissioner of New Milford's Shade Tree Commission, said that being awarded this tree is a great honor for the town of New Milford. "This tree is a part of history," Perrone said. "And now, so are we."
The commission is having a plaque made that will be placed in the garden alongside the tree.