Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pelham's "Glorious" Tree

When was the last time that you stood under the Comfort Maple?

A couple of weeks ago, I made a point of driving down the narrow lane off Melter Road in North Pelham to witness and give thanks for the great tree again.

As you may know, the Comfort Maple is thought to be more than 500 years old and is acknowledged as the oldest sugar maple in Canada! It could well have been a sapling when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

The tree is named in honour of the Comfort family, who acquired the land on which the tree grows in 1816. Through the years they cared for the mighty tree and in 1946 reserved a plot of land from their farm for it. Then in 1961, Edna Eleanor Comfort donated the land and tree to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in honour of her late brother Earl Hampton Comfort. The Comfort Maple Tree has also been officially designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Comfort Maple stands 24.5 metres (80 feet) tall with a crown that is 38 metres (125 feet) in circumference. The Maple measures 6 metres (20 feet) in circumference at the base. Because of its age and at least one major lightening strike, the tree has been repaired over the years with bricks as well as concrete and guy wires.

With such a distinctive feature in our Town, it’s no surprise that it figures prominently in Pelham’s official symbols. For example, our Town Crest contains the image of the Comfort Maple in full, red bloom of the fall. The tree is also one of the key images on the Town’s new website. And, on our recently launched Economic Development website, the Comfort Maple is the logo for Pelham under the “Niagara Original” marketing campaign.

When I visited it, there was a family – a grandfather, his daughter, and her children – also visiting. (The daughter had moved back to the area and the grandfather wanted to reacquaint them with some local features.) While the wind blew through the leaves and a thunderstorm developed, we each observed how we felt happy, content, and safe under the branches of the huge tree.

For me, the Comfort Maple is inspiring, symbolizes strength and tradition, and calls on us to give thanks; as the interpretive sign reads, “O Lord, how glorious are thy works.”