Vimy tree vandalism leaves bitter taste in people’s mouths
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.