About 50 of us gathered in Spencer Smith park last night to say goodbye and thank you to the willow trees for the 70 years they have sheltered and served our community. We huddled in the gazebo as a light rain fell, truly “gathered” together, a fitting tribute to the trees that became a gathering place for friends, family, children, and young lovers planning a future together.
These trees have survived generations of families – children remember climbing her branches, then becoming engaged under her cascading leaves, then returning to celebrate wedding anniversaries, then bringing children and grandchildren back to experience her grandeur. Last night people spoke of the trees as akin to a family member – an integral part of important milestones in life.
A summary of some of the Facebook comments from residents is here: City of Burlington Facebook willows june 6 2016
The ceremony was videotaped and will be posted here shortly, along with photos. The program is available here: Willow Tree Program
Cuttings from the trees are available today down at Spencer Smith Park. The wood is being saved, and uses will be determined at a later date. The branches will be removed today, with the trunks remaining until after the Sound of Music Festival (the grass is too wet now to support the heavy crane required to remove the trunks intact). We are exploring using the trunks for a sculpture, and taking a a slab of one of the trunks showing the timeline of the trees and key historical moments in Burlington’s history.
Memories of the trees are being collected at the city’s webpage here: burlington.ca/willow. We will determine a way to compile and share them all.
It took a small village of people to organize the signage, publicity and ceremony for the trees, in less than one week from the time I first learned about the rot and risk to the public of falling branches. I’d like to thank my assistant Georgie Gartside, for always rising to the occasion, doing research and preparing the program; my intern student Claire Bradbury, for creating the program; Brian McKelvey, our city arborist, for alerting us to the rot and participating in our ceremony to provide information and answers to residents; Kate Sault, president of the Burlington Horticultural Society, for sharing the history of the trees and Spencer Smith’s legacy; Julie Hamilton, for her moving poem, read at the ceremony by her friend Carol Gottlob; Rod Nettagog, of the Henvey Inlet First Nation, for the powerful smudging and drum ceremony, and prayer for the trees; Kune Hua, of True Essence media for videotaping the ceremony; the Globe & Mail for taking pictures and sharing the story; Donna Kell for media and publicity; Mary Battaglia, our director of Roads & Parks maintenance, for her support on the ceremony and saving the wood; Lana Kosterowa and Cameron Stevens for the web banner and web updates on burlington.ca; Jeff Crowder for the ad in the Burlington Post; Carla Marshall for posting on Instagram.
Last but not least, thanks to all of you who joined us for the ceremony and the many hundreds more who have shared your memories of the trees online. Stay tuned to this space for future updates on the trees.