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Walk Softly

As Ontario continues to develop more and more land, not only does the extent of our forests get diminished, but also the quality. Long gone are the days where we could proudly look at 100 foot tall trees and proclaim their bounty and their beauty. Now they are an exceedingly rare sight anywhere in eastern Canada.

I am fortunate to live on a property that has one majestic tree still standing. As a long-time member of the Scugog Environmental Advisory Committee, I have always been interested in the health of our forests so when we had spokespeople from Forests Ontario come to speak at one of our meetings, it enthralled me. Was my tree significant enough to include in their provincial registry? Time would tell.

According to the Forests Ontario website (, the Heritage Tree Program collects and tells the stories of Ontario’s unique trees. Launched in 2009, in partnership with the Ontario Urban Forest Council, the program brings awareness to the social, cultural, historical and ecological value of trees. For a tree to qualify, it needs to be associated with a historic person or event, or be growing on historically significant land. The tree’s prominence within the surrounding community and/or it also takes its use as a historical landmark into account, as are its form, shape, beauty, age, colour, size, rarity, genetic constitution and other distinctive features.

So, with this in mind, I did some research and found out that the original patent owner of the lands where I live was James Neville (1811), who sold the entire parcel to William Henderson in 1852. Then the south half was sold (where the tree is located) in about 1860 to Robert Stretton, after whom the historic community of Strettonville (later known as Strattonville) was named. In 1929, ownership passed to Mr. Webster, whereby it then was occupied by the Adams family during the Depression and finally sold in 1964 to Larry Doble who developed the community in which I now live. Located just to the north of my property is the former town of Strattonville. The area near my home is steeped in history. The linkages to history helped me convince Forests Ontario and the representatives of their Heritage Tree Program to recognize my tree as a Heritage Tree! If you go to their website, my tree appears as: Heritage Tree Number: HT-2018-236-247. SPECIES: Sugar Maple Age: 200 years. Height: 22 m. SPREAD: 33 meters. Circumference: 368 cm.

The accompanying online story is:

This Sugar maple is located on the ancestral lands of the Mississauga First Nation. It was a sapling in the forest that covered this area known as Reach Township, when it was surveyed in 1809.

The area became known as Reach Township in the early 1800s, when Colonel Reach slowly transformed the landscape. In 1811, the 200-acre parcel of Lot 1, Concession 8 where the Sugar Maple can be found was patented to James Neville. The property was later divided in 1815, with the north half of the lot sold off. Until 1821, the tree continued to grow in the south half with no settler development surrounding it.

During the decades that followed, the surrounding landscape experienced rapid clearing for farm and agricultural use. Despite the frequent changes in ownership, and the transformation of the acreage, they left the Sugar Maple untouched, and it still stands to this day at the estimated age of 200 years!

I also learned that these majestic trees often were used to replace surveyor stakes as property markers. So it is likely my tree was planted originally to define the southeast boundary of the parcel originally surveyed by Neville.

If you would like to nominate your own tree as a candidate for this program, please visit the following website: ( What a joy it is to see this wonderful historical monument every time I look out my bedroom window! May it stand for another 100 years! Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at and on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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