Vimy tree van­dal­ism leaves bit­ter taste in peo­ple’s mouths

The Amherst News - - OPINION - Ge­off de Gannes

Amherst town of­fi­cials have made a con­certed ef­fort in re­cent years to try and spruce up our parks, streets, side­walks and other pub­lic spa­ces through­out the com­mu­nity. Our down­town has looked par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive this sum­mer and there’s cer­tainly been plenty of pos­i­tive feed­back from not only lo­cal res­i­dents, but vis­i­tors as well.

The down­town busi­ness com­mu­nity should also be cred­ited for their ef­forts in mak­ing the busi­ness dis­trict more ap­peal­ing and at­trac­tive. Un­for­tu­nately, we can’t seem to curb the in­ci­dents of van­dal­ism that plaque our com­mu­nity. The in­dis­crim­i­nate de­struc­tion of prop­erty is so sense­less and the most re­cent de­spi­ca­ble act com­mit­ted at the foot of the North Nova Sco­tia High­landers mu­ral in Vet­eran’s Memo­rial Park on Ratch­ford Street takes it to a new level. Some­time be­tween Sun­day and Tues­day of last week, some­one snapped off, at the roots, the branches of a Vimy oak sapling that had re­cently been planted dur­ing a Le­gion cer­e­mony in the park. It is an af­front to those vet­er­ans who fought and sac­ri­ficed their lives on the bat­tle­fields of Europe.

The tree holds very spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for Le­gion mem­bers and mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and is very unique in­deed. The saplings are a di­rect de­scen­dent of a very spe­cific oak that once stood at the sight of France’s Vimy Ridge where Cana­di­ans de­fined their mil­i­tary prow­ess dur­ing the first World War.

Fol­low­ing the 1917 bat­tle 100 years ago, one Cana­dian sol­dier gath­ered up a hand­ful of acorns from a half-buried oak on the bat­tle­field and later planted them at his On­tario home.

The Vimy Oaks Legacy Cor­po­ra­tion, an en­tity formed to cre­ate liv­ing memorials at Vimy and across Canada, now pro­vide de­scen­dants of that oak to com­mu­ni­ties through ap­pli­ca­tion.

Work­ing with the Town of Amherst, vet­eran Jack Perry and mem­bers of Branch 10 of the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion were suc­cess­ful in se­cur­ing the oak sapling so it could be dis­played in a prom­i­nent place in the com­mu­nity as a last­ing legacy to this im­por­tant piece of our mil­i­tary his­tory.

To say these aging vets and their fam­i­lies are heart­bro­ken by what has hap­pened would be an un­der­state­ment. I could sense the frus­tra­tion, anger and sad­ness from one mem­ber as she de­scribed to me what this memo­rial legacy meant to her and her con­nec­tions to fam­ily who served this coun­try in both world wars.

Hope­fully, town and Le­gion of­fi­cials will be able to se­cure a re­place­ment sapling that will be given the op­por­tu­nity to grow and pros­per and not fall vic­tim to some thought­less and de­struc­tive van­dal.

Con­sid­er­ing the lo­ca­tion, in a vet­eran’s memo­rial park and the poignant sym­bol­ism of the Vimy Oak, this lat­est act of van­dal­ism cer­tainly leaves a bit­ter taste with many res­i­dents and a de­sire to see the cul­prit brought to jus­tice. I’d sug­gest part of the pun­ish­ment should in­clude a his­tory les­son on the sig­nif­i­cance of the Bat­tle of Vimy Ridge and an as­sign­ment that in­cludes some land­scap­ing and lawn care around our parks and pub­lic places.

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