Newsletter: Grieving the trees lost in May’s derecho storm

You’re reading the July 28, 2022 edition of the Peterborough Currents email newsletter. To receive our email newsletters straight to your inbox, sign up here.

For Ev Richardson, moving to a tree-lined street in East City last year was a “breath of fresh air.”

When Richardson first came to Peterborough in the summer of 2013, they lived on Chemong Road, where shade trees are in short supply. It was hard to find relief from the beating sun while waiting for the bus or walking on the sidewalk, Richardson said. “It just felt so unwelcoming.”

But in East City the “trees had a way of enveloping the streets from either side,” offering relief from the summer heat and creating a vast stage for songbirds, Richardson said.

Then the devastating May 21 derecho storm hit. “In the days following I walked around my neighbourhood and was shocked by the spectacle of the damage. Whole tree trunks were shattered, with massive slivers of wood jutting up into the sky,” Richardson said. “It was a very sobering reminder of one’s vulnerability against natural disasters.”

Richardson felt pangs of sadness seeing the gaping holes where much-loved trees once stood.

The sense of loss Richardson felt has been dubbed ecological grief. It’s one of the ways climate change is taking a toll on people’s mental health, a growing problem that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned about in a report earlier this year. “Mental health challenges, including anxiety and stress, are expected to increase under further global warming… particularly for children, adolescents, elderly, and those with underlying health conditions,” the authors said.

Richardson, who is program and outreach coordinator at the Kawartha World Issues Centre, thinks it’s important to talk about the emotional toll that extreme weather events are having on us, as climate change accelerates. To kick start that conversation, KWIC has been collecting stories about trees that came down in the derecho and what they meant to people. The stories will be featured on KWIC’s Instagram page and website.

One of the stories comes from Astrid Ackerman, whose walks to Jackson Park will never be the same after the storm.

Once the sky had cleared, Ackerman headed to the park and saw that their favourite willow tree had toppled over. Then they noticed that someone had placed a handmade wreath on what was left of the trunk. “It showed that this wasn’t only my favourite tree, my comfort, but my community’s as well,” they wrote.

Ackerman said the tree had been a part of their life in all seasons. “I’d wander over in the fall to harvest fallen willow branches, sitting on my porch weaving small baskets that I’d use in my day-to-day life,” they wrote. They also remembered going on many summer picnics and dates in the shade of the willow tree over the years.

Richardson said the goal of the project is to destigmatize the “harder feelings,” such as grief, that extreme weather events can bring up.

“Hopefully by showing that others feel the same way it can mobilize both individuals and the City to have real, intentional actions around climate change,” they said.

If you have a story to share about a tree you’re missing, you can send it to

Photos: Housing advocates urge city council to keep overflow shelter open

People gather outside Peterborough city hall on Monday night to call for council to keep the Wolfe Street Overflow Shelter running. (Photo: Will Pearson)

The Wolfe Street Overflow Shelter is no longer facing closure at the end of this year after a tight city council vote Monday night. With provincial funding to run the shelter set to dry up at the end of 2022, councillors agreed to spend $267,000 to keep the service running until March 31, 2023. The vote was 6-5.

As the virtual council meeting took place, dozens of people gathered on the front lawn of city hall to urge councillors to keep the shelter open. Councillors heard delegations from advocates who argued that the service is vitally needed, and from people who live near the shelter who don’t want it in their neighbourhood.

For the shelter to continue beyond March 2023, more funding would have to be found. That will likely be a point of debate during council’s budget deliberations in January.

Housing advocates posted the names of people who have died while experiencing homelessness in Peterborough to the doors of City Hall on Monday night. (Photos: Will Pearson)

A dreamy stream through East City: Curtis Creek

Curtis Creek originally meandered diagonally through East City, before joining the Otonabee River just north of Little Lake. But today, it’s been engineered to take a sharp turn near Armour Road – diverting it away from busy Hunter Street and neighbourhoods to the south and sending it quickly into the river instead.

Learn more about the history of Curtis Creek, and what’s been done recently to rehabilitate it, in my colleague Will Pearson’s latest creek profile.

Other stories to watch

ROAD SAFETY — Half of the city’s 10 most dangerous intersections in 2021 were along Parkhill Road, according to new collision data released by city police. Parkhill’s intersections with Monaghan, Reid, George, Water and Armour all made the list of the 10 intersections with the most crashes last year.

There have been fewer overall collisions on city streets since the pandemic began in 2020 and COVID-19 measures kept many people home. However, collisions where cyclists or pedestrians sustained injuries increased in 2021. Collisions involving injured cyclists rose by 57 percent, to a total of 22 in 2021. Meanwhile, 46 pedestrians were injured in collisions last year, a 15 percent increase from 2020.

NEW TRANSIT GARAGE — Peterborough’s new transit garage will be located at the current site of the Canadian Canoe Museum, at Monaghan Road and Romaine Street, city council decided on Monday night. The new facility is a crucial part of the City’s plan to significantly increase Peterborough Transit service in the coming decades, which will require buying many more buses. Peterborough Transit has already run out of room to park its existing fleet. More than a dozen buses have to be parked outside each night at the existing transit garage on Townsend Street, which staff warn is shortening their lifespans.

Correction: an earlier version of this newsletter misgendered Astrid Ackerman. It has been corrected to include Ackerman’s correct pronouns, which are they/them.


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