Brandon Castillo and Kate Rogner, both engineers at General Motors in Toledo, plant trees at Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee. Thousands of trees have been planted there this spring.
Brandon Castillo of Milan, Mich., stared out at the 120 acres of mostly vacant land at Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee.
More than 200 years ago the United States military had relentlessly attacked and killed hundreds of American Indians on the site to claim the land and turn Ohio into a state, according to historians.
On Friday, Mr. Castillo and 14 General Motors co-workers were planting 700 trees to replace thousands of ash trees killed by the deadly emerald ash borer in recent years.
“I look out at this whole area and there’s a kind of sadness,” said Mr. Castillo, a member of the Navajo tribe. “It bothers me that people are not aware of what really happened, or what happened after the fight.”
According to Mr. Castillo, 31, and park historians, the U.S. military was defeated twice before gaining victory in 1794.
They forced the American Indians to sign treaties that stated they willingly gave away all rights to their land, and then were banished forever.
The tree planting is part of an effort to replace 20,000 ash trees devastated by emerald ash borers, metallic green-colored, thumbnail-sized beetles from Asia that feed exclusively on ash trees.
The beetles are believed to have been accidentally imported to North America in shipping crates, first showing up in a Detroit suburb about 2002 and found in the Toledo area in subsequent years.
Scott Carpenter, Metroparks of the Toledo Area spokesman, said the regional park district encountered massive tree losses at the Pearson Metropark, Swan Creek Preserve, and Fallen Timbers Battlefield.
Dead ash trees are being replaced by bass wood, red and white oak, and shagbark hickory trees, said Tim Gallaher, Metroparks natural resources manager.
Earlier this week, another group of volunteers planted 14,000 trees at Fallen Timbers. The goal is to eventually plant 20,000.
Ironically, several years ago, many bass wood, oak, and hickory trees were wiped out by disease and replaced by ash trees, Mr. Gallaher said.
Prior to the tree planting, Mr. Carpenter offered the volunteers a brief historical perspective about where they were.
“We are standing on the battle site, or at least where part of the battle took place,” he said.
Bob Schneider, 56, of Toledo said he’s an active volunteer for the park system. But he acknowledged he’s never thought about the battle that took place at Fallen Timbers or the fate of the American Indians.
“I enjoy the parks,” he said.
“If you’re not coming out to the parks you’re missing out.”
Lisa Watson, an industrial engineer at General Motors, digs a hole for a tree as local GM workers volunteer at Fallen Timbers Battlefield in Maumee.
For Lisa Watson of Perrysburg, the experience was spiritual.
Ms. Watson, an industrial engineer for General Motors, said it’s important to volunteer and give back to the community.
As an African-American, the realization that American Indians were killed and property taken from them isn’t lost on her, she said.
“You don’t have to tell me anything about that,” Ms. Watson said as she stretched out her arm and displayed the color of her skin. “I know all about that.
“I keep having flashbacks,” she added.
“This place must have seen a lot of death. But the Earth is renewing itself.”
Today’s goal is to try to help the Earth heal from the wrongs done to it, Ms. Watson said.
“We’re not out here trying to forget what happened by covering it up with a bunch of trees,” she said.
“The Earth knows the truth. It may get hurt sometimes. But you cannot kill the Earth or the truth.”
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