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Keep coins in pockets, memorial officials say

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Officials with the Oklahoma City National Memorial say they're heartened by the large numbers of people visiting the site. They would prefer that visitors keep their coins in their pockets, however.

People have begun sticking coins into the bark of the Survivor Tree, an American elm that became a symbol of hope after the 1995. Some are even taking bark from the tree as a memento.

"We appreciate the donations very much, but we would requestt hat everyone help us protect the tree," said Robert Johnson, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust.

Johnson said workers will soon post signs asking visitors not to leave coins or strip bark. The trust also might put a collection box near the tree.

For now, trust workers are trying to keep a close watch on the tree and be courteous to memorial visitors.

Memorial officials estimate that 35,000 people visited the site the day it opened last week, and at least 50,000 have visited since.

Grassy areas of the memorial also are showing the strain of the heavy visitor load. But Johnson said the memorial's existing grass is temporary. A more hearty zoysia grass will be planted in a few weeks.

"It shouldn't take a long time to install, and once it is in, it should have the durability of what you would see on the football field," Johnson said.
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