A tree planted in Superior's Bear Creek Park on Wednesday, April 28, was both a promise and a beginning. The tree, an Ohio buckeye, was planted as part of a Workers Memorial Service in honor of all workers who have lost their lives in the workplace.

“I think it’s important to recognize all workers who have lost their lives at work throughout the history of the city. That pain never goes away for those families,” Superior Mayor Jim Paine said. “To have a living tribute that’s not only dedicated to those people, but that the city invested in, so that they recognize the whole city remembers the person they lost and is committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

City officials have been holding the annual ceremony for 11 years. This year’s tree is a memorial to Brady VanHove, who lost his life in a workplace accident at Kimmes Oil and Tire in September.

“For three of the four years I’ve been doing this, we’ve actually lost somebody at work in the previous year. That’s true this year as well,” Paine said. “We want to remember that specific person and create a place that the city protects and maintains for that family to come and to remember.”

Superior Mayor Jim Paine speaks before reading a proclamation at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Mayor Jim Paine speaks before reading a proclamation at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

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Worker Memorial Day serves as a time to remember the tens of thousands of American workers who have been hurt or killed by workplace injuries and occupational diseases and a time to commit to improving safety and health in the workplace. The city plants a workers memorial tree at a different Superior park each year. Wednesday, the event came full circle; the inaugural tree was planted in Bear Creek Park in 2010.

PREVIOUSLY: Inaugural tree planting honors workers killed on the job

The spring event also kicks off Superior’s Tree Tribute Program and its tree planting season. Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Linda Cadotte said the city will be planting about 400 trees this year, including 120 trees on Barker's Island in partnership with Barkers Island Inn.

Other new trees will be planted in Billings Park and small sections of the Allouez and South End neighborhoods. The plantings will include a variety of species, from Japanese tree lilac and flowering crabapple to Turkish filbert and black spruce.

“A lot of variety,” Cadotte said. “We're trying to get away from our high percentage of maples. Everybody loves maples, but we don’t want to have another ash borer situation where we have too many of one species. So (we’re) really trying to diversify and also bring in some species that are migrating north naturally.”

Superior City Councilor Ruth Ludwig gets a shovel full of dirt as she helps cover a tree planted at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior City Councilor Ruth Ludwig gets a shovel full of dirt as she helps cover a tree planted at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

This is the fifth and final year of a project to replenish areas of the city where ash trees used to be, Cadotte said. The city cut down roughly 3,000 ash trees from its boulevards and green spaces after the presence of emerald ash borer was confirmed in trees in the city’s north end in August 2013. The emerald ash borer, an invasive wood-boring beetle, has killed millions of ash trees from the East Coast to the Midwest.

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Current tree-planting standards prevented the city from replacing all the ash trees, Cadotte said, but by the end of this year’s infusion the city will have added 2,000 trees.

“The intent was never to replace one for one but to really just do our best with the canopy that we could,” she said.

Community members are invited to plant trees in honor of their own loved ones through the city’s Tribute Tree Program. More information is available at ci.superior.wi.us/236/Tribute-Tree-Program.

In addition to honoring fallen workers, Paine proclaimed April 30 as a day to celebrate trees in Superior. The city has been designated as a Tree City USA community for the last 22 years.

Superior city worker Rick Heckman adds wood chips to the tree planted at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior city worker Rick Heckman adds wood chips to the tree planted at Bear Creek Park for fallen workers during the Workers Memorial Service on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)