Officials marked Arbor Day here by planting a tree grown from space-traveling seeds that flew 1.5 million miles aboard the space shuttle Columbia with an astronaut from New Jersey.
The city was one of 35 in the state randomly selected from about 600 entries during the 86th annual New Jersey Shade Tree Federation Conference last year. The nonprofit federation assists individuals and agencies entrusted with the selection, planting and care of trees.
Astronaut Gregory Linteris, a Bergen County native, took eastern white pine tree seeds with him in 1997 on Columbia's 22nd voyage. The mission lasted three days, 23 hours, 13 minutes and 38 seconds, according to NASA.
Once on Earth, the seeds germinated in only seven days — about half the normal germination time. NASA then gave them to the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry.
The tree was planted Friday — on National Arbor Day — by Mayor Robert Romano along with members of the city's Environmental Commission, Sue Fenili and David Lowenstern. The city is withholding the location of the tree until it matures in a few years.
A memorial plaque is being considered for the tree at a later date to memorialize the mission and the Columbia crew. In 2003, the shuttle's seven-member crew died when Columbia broke up while returning to Earth.