Nature centre with 3,000 trees to open in Cornwall

Bill Hogg was standing by a sugar bush near Eliot River Elementary School when he saw an unwelcome sight.

Rebuilding the forest that was levelled to build the Terry Fox sports complex

'We watched the kids, and the look of sheer joy as they actually get their hands dirty and get down on their hands and knees,' says Bill Hogg. (Angela Walker/CBC)

Bill Hogg was standing by a grove of maple trees near Eliot River Elementary School a decade ago when his eyes took in an unwelcome sight.

"Lo and behold, a bulldozer came down and took the whole sugar bush down, and we just had a tear on our cheek," said Hogg.

The trees were razed during the construction of the Terry Fox Sports Complex, but they haven't been forgotten. 

We're so happy with the way it turned out.— Bill Hogg

They've inspired a project to make the area into what organizers are calling a naturalization gallery.

'Look of sheer joy'

The committee planted 3,000 trees over the last four years, and the 15-hectare Acadian forest will open on Sunday with a day of fun events and tours.

'Every spring we would tap the sugar maples, take in the sugar water, boil it down and the school would reek of maple syrup,' Hogg recalls of the stand of trees that once stood here. (Angela Walker/CBC)

At first, organizers were only going to plant a dozen trees in a one-year project. It turned out to be much more than that.

"We're so happy with the way it turned out," Hogg said.

More than 400 students from Elliot River, East Wiltshire and Bluefield schools planted trees.

"We stood back during the planting and watched the kids, and the look of sheer joy as they actually get their hands dirty and get down on their hands and knees," he said. 

'Drop their arms' in peace garden

The area includes a peace garden with 12 sugar maple and red oak trees.

Bill Hogg and June Sanderson are members of the committee that made the centre happen. (Angela Walker/CBC)

The concept began in the times of ancient Celtic priests, or druids, Hogg said.

"When armies or clans would be at loggerheads with weapons and there was no resolution, they would be invited to drop their arms and come into a circle of always 12 trees and resolve the conflict verbally."

Committee member June Sanderson said the circle represents infinity, while the number 12 represents 12 months in the year, 12 tribes in Israel and the 12 apostles, among other things.

The red oak was used because it is P.E.I.'s provincial tree. The property used to have a sugar maple stand and those trees represent food sustainability, Sanderson said. She added the red oaks have a lot of symbolism for First Nations communities. It could also be a good place to talk to students about bullying, Hogg suggested.

"Right now the trees are still very young, but we're certainly seeing the first signs of our Acadian forest," said Sanderson. 

Restoring P.E.I.'s Acadian or original forests has become recognized as important to restore biodiversity and keep woodlands healthier. 

Free events on tap Sunday

The committee sought financial help for the project from the federal government, corporations and other organizations.

Sunday's festivities are scheduled from 1 to 7 p.m. and will feature musical entertainment, including Aboriginal drumming, a Buddhist musical group and something for the kids. 

There will also be demonstrations from falconry services, bouncy castles, mini golf, frisbee golf and a yoga class, as well as a falconry demonstration and talks from Fish and Wildlife officials about animals native to P.E.I.

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With files from Angela Walker