A shining hope for better days ahead

The tree at McCarson Park, lit up blue each holiday season, is aglow again this spring as Mantua Township shows solidarity with first-responders.

The evergreen tree at the front of Trooper Eli McCarson Memorial Park is aglow with blue lights this spring, as it is during the holiday season, to show appreciation for those on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. (RYAN LAWRENCE/The Sun)

Nearly four years ago, the park was renamed to honor a fallen local hero. Each Christmas, the evergreen tree at the front of the park is adorned with blue lights to honor the memory of former state trooper Eli McCarson and all of the other police officers who died in the line of duty.

In a gesture to continue the tradition of honoring those on the frontlines, and as a symbol of hope that there will be brighter days ahead, McCarson Park tree has been lit again this spring.

The tree, which sits on the corner of East Mercer Avenue and Mantua Boulevard, is shining brightly as Mantua Township is supporting all first-responders fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mayor Pete Scirrotto credited deputy mayor Robert Zimmerman for coming up with the idea in mid-March.

“Bob thought, in these times, it’ll give people a little distraction,” Mayor Scirrotto said. 

“The mayor, myself and township committee members collectively decided to light the tree in honor of all those on the front line fighting COVID-19,” Zimmerman said. “Not only police officers, but firefighters, EMS, doctors, and nurses. It’s also a sign of hope for our community during these trying times … It’s extremely important (to show appreciation) as first responders are the ones on the front lines protecting and saving lives, and putting themselves at risk. We’re truly grateful for their efforts.”

On a recent evening, the quiet, empty park came alive as the blue bulbs shined brightly, providing a touching glow to complement the grey sky just before sunset. Earlier in the week, the township had its first confirmed case of a COVID-19 positive resident.

“It was inevitable,” Mayor Scirrotto said of the coronavirus epidemic that rapidly spread through the region in the final week of March and into April. “Mantua Township is a great town and we always come together in times like this. We had that bad storm a few years ago and came out of it and we’ll come out of this. As long as everyone stays healthy and does what we’re supposed to do, that’s the most important thing.”

“It’s been a very challenging time for our community, just as it’s been around the country and world,” added Zimmerman. “We’ve come together as a community family here in Mantua and are confident we’ll get through this with everyone’s cooperation. We ask our residents to stay home, and to practice social distancing.”

Formerly Sewell Park, the site of Mantua Township’s holiday tree was renamed Trooper Eli McCarson Memorial Park in August 2016, eight months after McCarson, a first-year state trooper and graduate of Clearview Regional High School, died in an auto accident while responding to a domestic abuse call. McCarson was 30 years old.

Each December, the blue-lit tree serves as a tribute to not only McCarson, but to the other law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty. As the tree’s lights are aglow this spring, current officers are appreciative of the township and public’s support.

“It’s very special for what it symbolizes, and that is solidarity and support,” said Lt. Brian Grady, Mantua Township Police Department and Emergency Management Coordinator. 

“While the original intent was to honor law enforcement and other first responders, it has grown so much more today,” Lt. Grady continued. “The solidarity and support not only includes first responders, but the medical staff that are on the front lines of this pandemic; the grocery store employees stocking the shelves; the teachers trying their hardest to make sure the students are getting properly educated; the parents and the students trying to learn in a new era and just everyone else who is doing their part to flatten the curve. It’s more of a solidarity and support of mankind. And what better way to honor Trooper McCarson and his family.”