For more than a year I’d seen more and more red Xs painted on ash trees each time I walked through Hampton Park. On Tuesday January 27, 2015 the red Xs were gone, replaced by tree stumps. Almost 400 trees in all will be taken out of the park by the end of this week, victims of the emerald ash borer, a beetle that has wreaked havoc on ash trees.
Anytime a tree is taken down is a sad occasion, even if it must be done, but the scale in Ottawa is enormous. More than 40 million ash trees are expected to die over the next few years because of this bug. If that’s too high a number to contemplate, here’s another way to think of it: just one large tree—and the ash can grow to be a mighty big tree—can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
Ottawa is not short of trees but that’s no excuse to be apathetic. Greenspace “theft” is already happening slowly, gradually. Unfortunately, human beings have a tendency not to notice or appreciate things until they’re gone. And when a tree is gone, it’s takes a while to grow another one.
Hampton Park has been my second home all my life. I walked our family’s two dogs there; explored the creek (when it still was a running creek) and all its tadpole inhabitants; played piggyback tag in the woods; looked for (and still do) the Mallards to come back every spring; I ate hundreds, perhaps thousands of raspberries. When I was a teenager, I freely admit that I drank and partied in the woods, but I now also clean up litter on a semi-regular basis during my strolls, so I hope that makes up for any trouble my rowdiness may have caused.
It’s my top go-to place to walk, breathe deep, to navel-gaze or brainstorm, to take pictures of weird trees or mushrooms, or pick garlic mustard and fiddleheads in the spring and grape leaves in the summer. The park may not be the biggest or grandest in the city, but it means a lot to me. So I’m making a public pledge to get more officially involved with the trees of Hampton Park. I’ll be starting by looking into Tree Ottawa.
I urge everyone to do what they can for trees. Simply taking better care of your own is a good start because, in the end, it doesn’t matter where on the planet you live; if you like breathing, you need trees.