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Grove planned in memory of lives lost to COVID-19

Families invited to observe Saturday morning tree-planting at Eramosa River Park
20210907 Nicola Kelly submitted
Nicola Kelly is heading up an effort to establish a COVID-19 memorial grove at Eramosa River Park.

A memorial grove tree-planting is set for this Saturday, in recognition of the Guelph residents who died as a result of COVID-19. The idea, explained Nicola Kelly who is spearheading the effort, is to provide a place people can connect with nature and reflect on lives lost as well as the impacts of the pandemic.

“I just have empathy for these families that have gone through this loss, at a time when they couldn’t even gather to mourn their loved ones,” said Kelly, who is among the volunteer planters from Peace One Day Guelph. “I thought it would be a really meaningful gesture if, as a community, we showed them solidarity, let them know they’re not alone going through this. As a community, we care and we recognize their loss.”

The grove is planned for Eramosa River Park and will be done in partnership with the City of Guelph, which is providing both the trees and the planting location. Between 50 and 70 trees will be put in the ground Saturday morning, replacing others that were removed due to emerald ash borer.

“I think that certainly the pandemic has impacted us all,” said Dave Beaton, the city’s program manager of forestry and sustainable landscapes. “To be having intentionality behind the planting is a lovely gesture.”

Kelly said she read an article about a group of people in Brazil who are planting memorial trees in response to the pandemic and thought it would be a good idea to do something similar locally.

She knows well how it feels to lose a loved one rather suddenly – her mother, also a Guelph resident, was killed in the 1985 Air India bombing.

A group of about 25 volunteers will take part in the tree-planting, said Kelly, who hopes family members of those who have died from COVID-19 come out to observe. With the pandemic ongoing, additional volunteers are not being sought.

“Because of COVID, we want to try to keep our numbers down,” she said, adding she hopes families read this article and make their way to Eramosa River Park between 9 a.m. and noon.

“We don’t know the names of the people who died,” she added, pointing to privacy legislation that prevents individual invitations to be sent. “Family members are invited down.”

Anyone who attends is asked to wear a mask and physically distance from others not in their bubble.

As of Tuesday morning, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health reports there have been 45 COVID-19-related deaths in the city since the start of the pandemic.



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