From left, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine dedicate a new memorial tree grove in honor of those impacted by COVID-19. Submitted photo.

Memorial tree grove planted to honor those impacted by COVID-19

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz have dedicated a new memorial tree grove in honor of the victims and survivors of COVID-19 as well as all Ohioans who made personal sacrifices to protect others amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove at Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe includes a grove of 15 newly planted trees surrounding a paved trail. Benches will be added to allow visitors to comfortably reflect on the toll of the pandemic, honor lives lost, pay tribute to courageous frontline workers, and recognize the selfless actions of Ohioans to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Governor DeWine selected the Great Seal State Park for the COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove due to its rich history and central location. In the early 1800s, the rolling terrain in the area inspired the hills depicted in Ohio’s state seal.  

“In our state seal, the sun rises over these hills, bringing the dawn of a new day, a fresh beginning, and hope,” said Governor DeWine. “While no memorial can fully encompass the grief caused by this pandemic, we hope this grove will not only offer some solace to those who lost loved ones but also serve as a reminder of the courage and endurance of all Ohioans during this unprecedented time in our lives.”

“We will never forget the Ohioans we lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and the void left in communities across our state in which their presence is deeply missed,” said Director Mertz.  “This grove is dedicated to the cherished memory of the family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues who have passed, where we can all find a place of peace and solace to honor and remember them in our grief.” 

During today’s ceremony, Governor DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine, and Director Mertz planted the first tree in the new grove. The remaining trees were planted by COVID-19 survivors, families of Ohioans killed by the virus, healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, students, local community leaders, and other essential workers including representatives from the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio National Guard, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

The trees selected for the COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove are all native to Ohio, including five white oaks, three redbuds, and one tree each of swamp white oak, northern red oak, chinquapin oak, hackberry, sugar maple, red maple, and flowering dogwood.

Ohio’s Great Seal State Park is located at 4908 Marietta Road in Chillicothe. The COVID-19 Pandemic Memorial Grove is located adjacent to the park’s campground. There are no admission or parking fees. 

A recording of the ceremony can be found at ohiochannel.org.