When great trees fall in Armstrong’s Point

The elm at the crossing of Blanchard and Middle Gate was the centre of the Armstrong’s Point neighbourhood. It finally gave way to Dutch Elm Disease and we watched as it was removed last fall.

Soon after, Rod and Susan Reynar’s Cornish Ave. household held a gathering with their neighbours to reflect in poetry and song on the loss of yet another of our great trees, tucked away behind a West Gate home and loved by all around it. “We were informed by the city that the big tree will be cut down. We are so sad. We will miss the canopy it offers in the heat of summer and the beauty that defines it with snow in the winter”, wrote Susan of the tree (below right) slated for removal the next day.

Losses like these have become a discouraging routine across our city but do they mean we must resign ourselves to the passing of our urban forest?  Maybe not. Positive signs are popping up….

Congratulations to a grass-roots Ft. Rouge residents’ group who kicked off their own tree replacement effort last fall with some start-up advice from a couple of their friends here in Armstrong’s Point. They celebrated the planting of nine new trees on their block last September and plans are already underway to repeat for this season.

They follow a motivated Crescentwood group who earlier had asked us some basic questions and took it away from there, going on to organize, raise funds and plant many new trees in their Peanut Park area, and before long become activist in the Trees Please initiative.

Botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger has called the boreal forest our last line of defense against climate change. We can be encouraged by local initiatives like Harvard Avenue and Mulvey Street, now part of an expanding coalition of self-starter neighbourhood groups who are replanting and uniting to lobby around the theme of Trees as Infrastructure at all political levels.

For our part, we’re looking forward to more networking, meeting more like-minded people, and joining forces to save our urban forest and preserve the very livability of our city.

To close, a poem composed and recited by Claire Brandenbarg, a student in the Cornish Avenue household at the top of our Armstrong’s Point story.

Claire’s poem commemorates our lost trees, but she offers a message of renewal that can inspire us to forge ahead in our work.

– Darlene Irwin

Eulogy for the Great Elm of Armstrong’s Point 
by Claire Brandenbarg Oct. 18, 2020

Towering giant,
Situated in sky,
Slumbering and strong.
In your branches, 
A dozen woodpeckers feast,
and we humans gaze upward and marvel.
Throughout the seasons,
We creatures have known this: You remain present.

Neighbourhood elder,
You have stood with and against gravity,
Etching against the sun
and holding Story in every ring.
Both tangible and beyond range,
You have been shielding, stretching,
and reaching for decades;
Reminding multiple generations
of the true nature of things: 
We become, we are, we release. 

Ancient guardian,
In your last days of work in this form,
We honour you.
We acknowledge your majesty, your peacefulness,
your steadiness, and your long life.
We give thanks for the clarified air you have produced, 
simply by being. 
Soon you will return, with a mysterious grace,
to the resting place that is soil.
There, you will continue to enrich,
and enliven the world once more.

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