The Trees in Court House Park
From the town’s inception in 1827 until August 21, 2011, Courthouse Park in the centre of the iconic downtown square has provided a shady respite for citizens to meet, greet and celebrate. All of that came crashing down (quite literally) on a warm Sunday afternoon in August of 2011 when an F3 tornado skipped across Lake Huron and up historic West Street, across the park, creating a path of destruction several hundred metres wide and traveling nearly 20 kilometres on the ground.
In Courthouse Park the damage was swift, with almost 100 mature trees uprooted in a matter of seconds. Only two medium sized beech trees and six smaller trees survived the chaos.
By the fall of 2012, the Town of Goderich was already planning to refurbish the park following a master plan that had been created as part of the revitalization project after the storm. Arborist and landscape architect Michael Ormston-Holloway of The Planning Partnership of Toronto served as consultant on the project and worked with Parks Superintendent Martin Quinn and Director of Operations Chip Wilson to get the ball rolling.
Starting a three-acre arboretum from scratch offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities, and the planners chose trees for various attributes including size, colour, texture, aroma, flowers and shape. In order to accomplish an instant canopy, large trees (60 feet tall and over 20 years old) were transplanted to all four quadrants of the park. Smaller varieties were then added.
Some fast-growing trees were planted as a temporary measure to provide canopy within just a few years, with plans to remove them as the slower-growing and longer-lasting species like the oaks and maples reach maturity over the next 30 or so years.
A Pin Oak on the side of the octagon facing West Street was the first tree planted in November 2012, which seems fitting as the first trees in the park destroyed in the park would have faced the tornado there as it raced toward them.
The next time you’re strolling around The Square through Courthouse Park, look up, way up and consider the planning and effort that has been put in to create the shady canopy that you see.