When city government was established in Manti in 1951, the first ordinance approved by the city council pertained to swearing.

The city fathers were against it, with appropriate penalities provided for offenders.The second ordinance approved at that November meeting pertained to shade trees.

The city fathers were for them.

Through the decades some of the trees have fallen victim to high winds, to disease or to lightning. But most have survived, adding a distinctive touch to one of Utah's oldest settlements.

But a new threat may spell the eventual doom of the hundreds of tall trees that mark the Manti skyline.

The spruce flourished best beside the small irrigation ditches along every Manti street, ditches dating back to the pioneer period.

Those ditches are gone. Water is no longer conveyed to lawns and gardens in open channels but in the underground pipes of the new pressurized irrigation system.

Some of the tall trees have already died of thirst. Residents are making a special effort to spare others. And people are being encouraged to plant other species better adapted to a changed environment.

The 1951 ordinance required "every holder of lots . . . to set out in front of their lots such trees for shade as shall, in their opinion, be best calculated to adorn and beautify the city."

And the ordinance specified that residents should "plant said trees not to exceed one rod apart, except for gateways, and to exceed 10 feet from the line of said lot or lots, on a parallel line with the sidewalks."

The residents took heed of the ordinance the following spring, bringing out of Manti Canyon hundreds of young trees, from 18 to 30 inches tall.

They called them pine trees or evergreens, although they were, in scientific terminology, the spruce that are so common to the area.

They planted the young trees on Temple Hill, in a grove of 100 or more in the cemetery, by groups of three or four around their houses - but especially along the streets, beside the irrigation ditches, where they flourished in the moist earth.

The residents planted the spruce because they provide shade from the noon-day sun and sometimes because they reminded settlers from their Scandinavian homelands.

One of Manti's first hotels, razed to make way for more modern buildings, was named the Twin Pine Lodge for the two tall trees that towered above it.

And Manti itself got a nickname, Christmas Tree Town, from the great trees that stood proud and green the year around.

In the meantime, the great green pyramids continue to stand tall, living symbols of a pioneer heritage that is slowly fading into the past.