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Keep coins in pockets, memorial officials say

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Workers are having to protect the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial again -- this time from
visitors to the memorial who have been sticking coins into the bark or even taking a piece of bark as a memento.

The tree is an American elm that survived the April 19, 1995, blast and became a symbol of hope.

"We appreciate the donations very much, but we would request that 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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