Monday, August 18, 2014

A Legacy for Pelham’s “Glorious” Tree

Aside from the Fonthill Kame (which is 13,000 years old), the next oldest Pelham landmark is the Comfort Maple.

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’s name honours 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 (NPCA) in honour of her late brother Earl Hampton Comfort. The Province also officially designated the Comfort Maple Tree 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. It 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.

Given its stature, many of Pelham’s official symbols and documents prominently exhibit the tree. For example, our Town Official Crest contains the image of the Comfort Maple in full, red bloom of the fall. I also have four, framed photos – for each of the seasons – in my office.

But, it you have visited the Comfort Maple lately, you will know that it is showing its age.

That’s why I’m grateful that members of Pelham’s Communities In Bloom (CIB) committee and the NPCA (with leadership by Darcy Baker) began a legacy project for the Comfort Maple in 2012. First the NPCA collected seeds from the tree, then, a local greenhouse – EarthGen in Dunnville – fertilized the seeds and promoted their growth.

EarthGen estimates they will have at least 200, three-foot Comfort Maple saplings ready for planting this fall. The Town will receive 100 saplings – with approximately 20 set aside for heritage plantings around Town and other projects and the remainder sold by the CIB committee to further support their work. The NPCA will use their 100 to help fulfill their conservation efforts.

Thus, the Comfort Maple will live on! It will continue to symbolize strength, tradition and our joint heritage. It will also continue to call on us to give thanks; as the interpretive sign at the tree reads, “O Lord, how glorious are thy works.”