By Chris Must
Smiths Falls’ own “Vimy Oak” will be planted beside the town cenotaph, town councillors have agreed.
Making a presentation to council Monday, Nov. 21, Smiths Falls and District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI) students Jordan Drummond and Ben Seward provided an update on the progress of the project and asked for help in finalizing the preferred site to plant the oak.
After the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, a Canadian officer gathered some acorns from an oak tree destroyed in the fighting and sent them home to Canada. After the war ended the following November, Miller planted those acorns on his family farm in Scarborough as a way to commemorate the battle.
The acorns later grew into majestic oaks, of which just eight remain today. A volunteer group, the Vimy Oaks Legacy, is working with contacts in France to commemorate the centennial of Vimy Ridge by replanting the oak forest destroyed a century ago. Cuttings were taken from the Vimy Oaks in Scarborough last January. The grafted oaks are growing at Connon Nurseries in Ontario, and 100 will be shipped to France for planting next year, next to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Another 150 saplings will be planted in communities across Canada to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
A small group of SFDCI history students was enlisted to help plan both the planting of the Smiths Falls sapling, and the dedication ceremony and permanent marker. One of the group’s tasks was to recommend a location, and they started with six potential sites. Drummond told councillors the list had been shortened to just two potential sites, the park beside the town hall, and the cenotaph.
Because of the ongoing Town Square project to make improvements to the site next to the town hall, Art Manhire, manager of community services, said town staff were recommending the cenotaph as the “safest” location for a tree planting. He also said the soil at the cenotaph is favourable.