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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
‘Witness Trees Project’ documents folklore, history about NOTL

Snehal Kataruka
Special to Niagara Now/The Lake Report

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Communities in Bloom committee is on a mission to document and protect trees that have “witnessed” history in town.

And they’re looking for help from residents.

This week the committee launched its Witness Tree Project, which provides an interactive map to the location of various trees, along with the estimated age of the tree, information about the species and some local history and folklore.

The program is aimed to teach people about the town’s cultural past and help advocate for trees, said Communities in Bloom committee member Janet Trogdon.

“The idea is to create a database that will result in a trail of trees that residents and visitors will enjoy by getting out on a walk or learning about them online.”

Janet said she remembers her father “many decades ago” telling her the local legend that the shade of a tree at the former Parliament Oak public school was onced used as the setting for a meeting of Parliament, on a hot day when politicians wanted to escape the heat.

“Whether it’s a local lore or fact, the stone marker dated 1915 does stand where a beautiful oak tree once did. Preserving this story and so many others help us understand how we became the community we are today,” she said.

The program will also focus on the town’s colonial and Indigenous history, as well as raise environmental awareness through historical stories about the area, she said.

So far committee members have documented 24 trees, including a 175-year-old maple near Strewn Winery.

Committee members use submitted information from residents to help find out the history of the tree, such as the reason it was planted.

“This process includes determining the age and type of a tree, whether it is a native species, the reason it was planted, and what it has witnessed,” said a Town of NOTL media release about the tree project.

The progress of the project is still evolving, Trogdon said, noting the project was restricted until the fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Communities in Bloom considers the Witness Tree Project as a work in progress and want (it) to evolve and grow with input from residents who have a connection with our town,” she said. 

“The trees can act as a location marker about an event that happened.”

The committee is asking for the public’s help in nominating trees of perceived significance to be canvassed and studied. Residents can nominate trees at the initiative’s website.

Trogdon said they’re still working on ways to verify the information submitted, but she’s hopeful the project will have more trees listed by April.

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