HEATHER BOA Bullet News GODERICH – In the weeks that followed the tornado that ripped through Goderich and area last year, Dr. Jim Hollingworth was shocked by the wreckage and continually drawn to the devastation in Lions Harbour Park.
The century-old trees were ripped from the ground, giving a clear view to the damage at Sifto’s salt mine in the harbour and up West Street to the ruined downtown Square.
“I thought, my goodness, this is the biggest thing that’s happened to Goderich in terms of a natural disaster within probably the living memory of everybody. There should be a historic marker. There should be something to mark this for the future,” he said.
For a while, he forgot about the idea but when he heard the town intended to create a donor wall in recognition of significant financial contributors to the tornado cleanup, his idea came back to him. He spoke to blacksmith James Wallace and got financial support from the Lions Club and Sifto Salt Corp. for a permanent sculpture in the park.
“I wanted something that would stand the test of time and visually would remind us of the damage that the tornado wrought upon our community and the rebirth of trees, the rebirth of natural landscape and buildings that would occur,” he said.
Last Friday, visitors to Lions Harbour Park, just west of the Park House Tavern & Eatery, were greeted by a 10-foot galvanized steel bronze sculpture of a tree, half of which is vibrant with life and green leaves while the other half is broken and dead. Its trunk is an intricate design of layered ovals of metal to give it a rough texture. A banner wrapped around the tree reads: Natural giveth and taketh all. Lower down the tree is a stump for small children to sit on. Two whimsical tree dragons poke their heads out of a hole on one side while a small bird rests in a hole on the other side.
“Everything that exists comes from nature and is reclaimed by nature,” said Hollingworth, who was inspired by David Suzuki, who is a renowned Japanese-Canadian environmentalist, scientist and broadcaster. He remembers Suzuki saying the environment isn’t something out there that we can separate ourselves from; instead, we are the environment.
“When we think of the environment as part of us, there’s a greater sense of intimacy, of connectedness and, hopefully, of caring for the environment. If we’re caring for the environment, we’re caring for ourselves, our own species and all other species,” he said.
“For me, the saying on the banner is huge. It goes beyond the tornado.”
While Hollingworth has his own interpretation of the historic marker, he invites the public to apply its own creativity and life experience to read meaning into the historic marker.
Blacksmith James Wallace said the tree’s design is different than what was first presented to council on a piece of cardboard. It’s bigger so that children won’t be tempted to climb it. It has the addition of the tree dragons, the small bird and a stump for children to sit on. Perhaps the biggest difference is that the banner wraps around the tree rather than spanning its width, so that people are forced to walk around the tree in order to read the script.
Once the sculpture was finished, it was transported to a galvanizing plant where it was dipped in a zinc tank. Then it was powder coated and cured in an oven by Dynamic F/X, of Goderich. The banner was hand washed in browns afterward.
“I could go through and talk about the numbers of feet of steel, how many times I took it apart and put it back together again, but in any case it’s what creativity is about. It’s not as if I have a blueprint from an engineering firm, nothing like that,” he said.
As he worked, he got input of some Lions club members, his family, Hollingworth and local resident Glen Carey.
“They’re all good friends and dedicated to that historic park,” said Wallace, who added that the park was once the “centre of the universe” for the Canada Company’s 2.5-million-acre Huron Tract. All settlers travelled from Guelph along a dirt road under a canopy of hardwood trees to a log building in the park where they were assigned their plot of land.
Rowland Howe, who is the country executive, Canada, for Compass Minerals, parent company to Sifto Canada Corp., said Sifto is pleased to be part of this effort.
“Sifto very much wanted to support the town’s memorial to the perseverance and resolve of the community. The company was hit hard with significant property damage both at the mine and at the plant – and we appreciate the town’s support as we pushed forward to get both sites running and people back to work,” Howe said.
He said it also lost an employee and friend, Normand Laberge, who died in the tornado.
“He will be forever remembered when we speak of the storm, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project and consider it very fitting to include his memorial as part of this symbol of what the town survived last August,” he said.
There will be a special ceremony to unveil the historic marker and its accompanying plaque on Tuesday, Aug. 21, starting at 1:30 p.m. Guest speakers include: Deb Shewfelt, Goderich mayor: Hollingworth; Carey; Howe; and Walter McLlwain, president, Goderich Lions Club.