on September 1, 2016 by test_editor in Archive_2016, Coming Events, Print Articles, September, Comments (1)

September 1, 2016: Tree Fest Ottawa 2016; A Celebration of Trees.

September 1, 2016: Tree Fest Ottawa 2016;
A Celebration of Trees.

By Debra Huron.

Although Christine Earnshaw lives in the Wellington Village, part of Kitchissippi, she envisions the entire city of Ottawa as a canvas for celebrating trees.
Along with husband Chris Osler and friend Kathleen Gotts, Earnshaw has embarked on year two of a labour of love (also known as intense volunteer activity), in support of Tree Fest Ottawa 2016, an outdoor photo exhibit and website the trio launched in the fall of 2015. The tagline for Tree Fest Ottawa describes the organizers’ approach: Promote. Protect. Celebrate. Connect.

This year’s Tree Fest opens on September 10, and promises to be bigger and better than the inaugural event. After two weeks at Lansdowne Park—the site of last year’s festival — Tree Fest will move the outdoor photo exhibit and expanded programming to its main location in the area around Brewer Pond in Brewer Park, at Bronson Avenue near Sunnyside. The City of Ottawa continues to support this art and activism venture.

“We’re trying to prompt people to understand why trees are important in so many ways: for health, for food security, for good neighbourhoods, for their heritage value and for the central role they play in our environment,” says Earnshaw.

For the 40-something Earnshaw, being a volunteer tree planter with a local ecology group in 2013 held value — but not quite enough relevance. She also saw the need and the potential to try to engage more people in some of the critical issues facing the forest, questioning the need to plant more trees, asking what is happening to the current trees as they are and, why are trees so important?

In Kitchissippi, where intense small-scale development has had an adverse impact on the urban forest canopy, Earnshaw believes the focus for tree conservation needs to be on enforcing the tree protection by-law, or reviewing it. She describes the big trees that line residential streets and add shade to backyards as “communal assets,” and although many are on personal property, they are neighbours to all of us. Earnshaw is concerned that when a tree can just be taken down, all trees are threatened.

Yet, Earnshaw is not keen to be known as a tree hugger. Instead, Tree Fest Ottawa’s website uses the term “tree enthusiast”, and coming from an arts perspective, the organizers seem inspired to create social change through a particular artistic medium: photography.

As they did last year, the Tree Fest crew will be installing original 4 ft X 8 ft photographs in outdoor spaces, to celebrate trees. Earnshaw noted the story telling potential with images that were used in 2015. Many different people with a keen interest in trees were interviewed and put their stories out there. Tree Fest’s website currently features 18 such stories and more will be added in the coming weeks. She explained that many of the people interviewed for the website are also those who are leading workshops and doing tours at the Brewer Park site.

On Wednesdays, school groups will be welcome at the Brewer Park site. Each Saturday will feature a unique theme, such as Family Day on Sept. 17, Ecology Day on Oct. 1, and Health Day (in partnership with Ottawa Public Health) on Oct. 8. This year’s Ottawa Tree Fest will end with a Day of Action on Oct. 15. There will be special events on National Tree Day on Sept. 21. Visit http://www.treefestottawa.org for a full schedule.

Earnshaw’s goal with Tree Fest is to create an outdoor gallery space that is experiential and fun. Did we mention there are food vendors, too?

At the root of this venture sits Earnshaw’s desire to celebrate one of Ottawa’s most important natural resources. “We need more of a culture of appreciation for trees,” she says. “We need more people to stand up for trees. To make their voices heard. To take action, to actually nurture the ones that are here and, to plant new trees.”

man and woman with walking sticks in a claering.

Pair of Wood Trekkers.

Photo Caption: Wellington Village residents and inveterate “tree huggers” Chris Osler (left) and Christine Earnshaw (right), two of the founders of Ottawa’s now city-wide Tree Fest, intend to promote, protect, celebrate and connect with Ottawa’s urban canopy. Photo courtesy of Tree Fest.

1 Comment

  1. It’s TREE month in Ottawa

    September 7, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

    […] Tree Fest Ottawa will open its second year of building community awareness about the value of trees on Sept. 10. A backgrounder on this Kitchissippi-born example of art-ivism appeared recently in News West. […]

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