'It's a living memorial': City rededicates Coronation Park for Remembrance Day
Coronation Park's maple groves commemorate Canadian soldiers of the First World War
Ontario's lieutenant-governor joined the mayor and members of Canada's armed forces on Saturday to rededicate Toronto's Coronation Park as part of the city's Remembrance Day ceremonies.
"It is fitting that we've gathered here today to rededicate this park so that we can once again honour the courage and the sacrifice of Canadian veterans in this beautiful waterfront setting," said Mayor John Tory during a morning ceremony.
"It's not just another park," he added. "It's a living memorial."
Coronation Park, just east of Ontario Place along the waterfront, was created in the mid-1930s. The original design of the park centred around Royal Oak that was planted to mark the coronation of King George VI. Silver Maple trees were planted around the Royal Oak to signify the colonies of the British Empire.
Over the years, a series of maple groves were planted to commemorate veterans who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Granite markers were placed at the base of trees with the names of different military units the trees stand to represent.
"From its inception this park has served as a place to honour the many Canadians who in times of war and conflict have given them of themselves in support of our democratic way of life," said Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell in her remarks to the gathered crowd.
"Let me convey my gratitude to those who returned home and built a society and a place worth living in."
Speaking to reporters, Tory said that many people who frequent the park are unaware of its original purpose. He admitted that he only came to learn its full story while he prepared for Saturday's ceremony.
"I wasn't aware of the full historical implications and where these beautiful trees came from," he said.
Since the trees were planted more than 75 years ago, aspects of the memorial have fallen into disrepair. Some of the paths have grown over, and the granite markers eroded and crumbled.
The city is in the midst of a two-phase restoration of Coronation Park. The initial phase is focused on the Royal Oak tree and the surrounding Silver Maples and is currently ongoing. The second part is set to include the installation of new markers, and will begin some time in 2019.
The work is being funded through a partnership between Veterans Affairs Canada, the City of Toronto and a number of private donors.
Tory and Dowdeswell also unveiled new signs at the park on Saturday. One lays out the rich history of Coronation Park, while another features a map of the various trees and the military units they honour.
Sunday will mark 100 years since the announcement of an armistice that ended the First World War after four years of bloody conflict that devastated Western Europe and killed close to 61,000 Canadians.
With files from Lucas Powers