Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Memorial Drive Trees: A Living Commemoration

One of the most recognizable roads in Calgary is Memorial Drive. Running along the Bow River in the heart of the city, this route is lined with thousands of trees. As Remembrance Day approaches, we share some history on those trees, which serve as a living memorial to the men and women who died during World War I.

Trees and pathway along Memorial Drive
Thousands of Canadians died during the war, and many of their bodies were never brought home. The trees were planted along Memorial Drive to create a living memorial, in hopes that this would bring some comfort to grieving families, who had no grave to visit.

The first tree was planted on Sunnyside Boulevard (now Memorial Drive), in the spring of 1922, by Mayor Adams. More than 3,200 trees were planted between 1922 and 1928.

With many of the original trees now nearing the end of their lifecycle, The City is planting new trees through its Landscape of Memory project which aims to protect the existing legacy and continue the historic, environmental and cultural integrity of Memorial Drive. This project includes the introduction of a variety of new tree species, to increase biodiversity and general urban forest health.

Memorial Drive continues to grow and evolve as a living memorial to the events and people that have shaped Calgary’s landscape. The ongoing “Landscape of Memory” project focuses on themes of remembrance, legacy and history and what they mean to us, as Calgarians. The trees of Memorial Drive are one way we, as citizens of Calgary, celebrate and remember the sacrifices that others made in the name of peace.

Memorial Drive's trees:
  • The majority of trees planted from 1922 to 1928 were Populus wobbstii, –more commonly referred to as poplars. These poplars are now at, or nearing the end of their lifecycle.
  • The trees are thought to have been wild trees brought to Calgary by miners returning from Drumheller.
  • In 1922, the trees were sold for $1.
  • Metal discs were attached to stands in front of each tree. The discs were inscribed with the year, the donor's name and a tag number.
  • City of Calgary Parks began cloning the original poplars in 2001 to continue the tree’s heritage. Today we have 1,500 offspring growing in Grand Forks, BC.
  • All the poplar trees along Memorial Drive are female, but one. Female poplars bear the cotton – which provides food for ducks, carries tree seeds and provides nesting material for birds and animals.
Submitted by Anna Blaxley, Calgary Parks

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