March 23rd, 2023

Damaged and fallen trees in Roger's Cove Park in Peterborough after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm.

A few of the many downed and damaged trees in Roger’s Cove Park in Peterborough after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm, which also caused massive damage to power lines and utility pole and homes and properties. (Photo: Bruce Head)

By: Ev Richardson, Kawartha World Issues Centre; Lili Paradi, GreenUP

“I’m drawn to story-telling. I couldn’t have anticipated that when I walked down Burnham Street in late summer of 2022 that I would notice a stump and have an idea that launched a community project.”

Ev Richardson is the Program and Outreach Coordinator at the Kawartha World Issues Center (KWIC), and the creator of the Stump Stories initiative. Through the process of reflection, Stump Stories invites community members to share their experience of the May 21st 2022 derecho.

Two recent Stump Stories submitted to KWIC, featured here, reflect on changes to the landscape in the aftermath of the storm.

Cheryl Lyon, homeowner and member of GreenZine Editorial Collective

Cheryl Lyon’s Norway maple marked (with orange marking) for felling by the municipality after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm.

Cheryl Lyon’s Norway maple marked for felling by the municipality after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm. The city’s tree removal by-law helps to protect and enhance the tree canopy and natural vegetation in the municipality. After events like the derecho, certain trees must be felled to maintain the safety of city streets. (Photo: Cheryl Lyon)

“The dreaded orange dot! There it was on the beloved old Norway maple in front of my home after the derecho. ‘Betty,’ as I had affectionately named her, was marked for felling! The pang of grief was palpable and I still feel it now.

I knew she was old and considered an invasive species but she was deeply part of my experience of home. For 21 years, she had shaded my south-facing house, acting as my air conditioning system. She seemed to anchor the ecology of my little plot of land.

I called the Forestry Department at City Hall to find out when and how she would be cut down. I learned what trees were available for replanting, had some choice (informed by my own research with GreenUP’s Ecology Park & Native Plant Nursery) in the type suitable to our climate.

I needed to know how the ecology of my front yard would change after Betty. As our climate changes and summers get warmer, I realized that I needed to plan how cool the house would be without her generous shade.

As for Betty’s replacement? From among the choices on the City’s approved list, it will be a basswood for its lovely shape and the tea I can make from its blossoms.”

Hayden Wilson, Land Stewardship Coordinator, Kawartha Land Trust (KLT)

Kawartha Land Trust’s Jeffrey-Cowan Forest Preserve is well known for its towering stands of mature white pine and oak trees. The protected property saw more than average numbers of fallen trees after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm. (Photo: Hayden Wilson)

Kawartha Land Trust’s Jeffrey-Cowan Forest Preserve is well known for its towering stands of mature white pine and oak trees. The protected property saw more than average numbers of fallen trees after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm. (Photo: Hayden Wilson)

“The May 21 derecho affected a number of Kawartha Land Trust (KLT)’s protected properties. The winds tore through the Jeffrey-Cowan Forest Preserve, a trail known for its towering stands of mature white pine and oak trees. The preserve was left with a drastically different ecosystem.

During the brief storm, hundreds of trees, some over a hundred years old, fell in swaths — one on top of the other. The loss of mature forest stands is certainly a blow to bird species that favour them like scarlet tanagers and thrushes.

New growth is already springing up from the exposed forest floor. Species of aspen, birch, oak and pine are growing and sending out new shoots which will begin rebuilding the canopy.

With the open canopy, the former understory is also showing new diversity and many species of wildflowers are likely to flourish in the coming years. The Jeffrey-Cowan Forest Preserve will recover, but it will take time and support for conservation to help mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Change in the landscape did not come without an emotional toll.

Richardson describes the derecho storm and its aftermath as “a time of panic, uncertainty and isolation, similar to when mourning the death of family members.”

“I’m fortunate that I didn’t lose anyone during the storm, and offer my condolences to those who did,” said Richardson.

Yishin Khoo, Mindfulness Practitioner and Educator, used mindfulness tools as a way of dealing with unpleasant emotions arising from climate anxiety and the impact of the storm.

“Mindfulness is the energy to be aware and awake to the present moment. When I am mindful, my mind is not busy thinking about the past or the future nor is my mind caught up in present worries,” Khoo reflected.

“When reading news coverage of disasters in different parts of the world, maintaining a sense of mindfulness helped me notice how the information I was consuming had an impact on my body and emotions. Instead of pushing sadness, fear, and anxiety away, I learned to accept, embrace and take care of these feelings.”

A large fallen tree after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm.

The City of Peterborough declared a state of emergency after the May 21, 2022 derecho storm, which caused massive damage to power lines and utility poles, homes and properties, and trees. (Photo: Eileen Kimmett)

Each community member in Peterborough had a different experience with the derecho storm. Stump Stories continues to bring these experiences to light.

The story initiative will continue to be featured on Kawartha World Issues Centre’s website and social media channels. We encourage you to share widely how the derecho storm impacted you, your home, community and your surroundings by emailing stumpstories@kwic.info

“Inviting people to share their personal anecdotes about the storm and the changing environment is only the start of the conversation,” said Richardson.

GreenUP thanks KWIC for this third and final column in the Stump Stories series. We look forward to sharing future columns that will continue to touch on themes of community resilience, climate grief, and how everyone can participate in the climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Local historians may know GreenUP began as an emerging initiative under the umbrella program of KWIC, a long-standing partner working on sharing local stories and empowering the community to take action for their environment and climate.