Lambton County is one of the hardest-hit areas when it comes to the devastation brought on by the emerald ash borer. Nearly 1/4 of our entire canopy was native ash and now those trees are all dead or dying. This was a crisis of our own making as far too many people refused to heed warnings not to carry firewood out of infected areas, thus spreading the pest throughout North America. My response to this ecological crisis has been to study this phenomenon in depth and to express this profound loss through works of art.
Signposts and Traces was a community-engaged, ecological artwork at Canatara Park which memorialized the ash trees of Canatara. This artwork, which took the form of a trail of mourning with 14 stops, or stations at which the remains of ash trees are located, featured temporary ‘shrouds’ for the trees made from invasive phragmites stalks, and QR codes which led participants with smartphones to an online exhibition in which each tree was memorialized through mourning art and jewellery reminiscent of Victorian mourning practices, death notices, and stories of the individual trees. There was a community event on the Saturday following Arbour Day (April 29th, 2017 at 10 a.m.) at which people from the Sarnia/Lambton community were invited to participate. This event, held at Canatara Park, took the form of a memorial service for the ash trees of Canatara, which were culled in 2014. People shared poetry, music, etc., to eulogize the trees and then were given the opportunity to walk the trail, contemplate the loss of the trees, and use the QR codes at each stop to view each tree’s memorial page. The shrouds, which were made from all biodegradable materials were left there so that they will eventually decayed and nurtured the soil.
The memorial objects and shrouds can be viewed on the trail map, here.
This is an aerial view of ash tree devastation in Lambton County.