Not only has this week been the last that I shoot photos for my Bate Island Project, it is the end of Bate Island itself, the way I have known it for this past year.
A couple of months ago, I noticed that some of the mature trees were beginning to shed some of their bark. Because it was winter and none of the trees had leaves anyway, it was hard to determine if they were sick, but I knew that bark shedding was not a normal process. Unless, perhaps, they were sick or dying.
I'm not a tree expert. I don't know if these trees are oak, or ash. I suspect they are oak, only because some of the fallen, dried leaves that flutter across the snow-covered park are of that species.
About a month ago, during one of my afternoon visits, I saw that several trees were painted with a red X, below which a number was also painted. The first trees I saw were numbered in the 20s, but I saw one tree numbered 53.
A shitload of trees were going to be coming down.
This Monday, as I stopped on the island on my way to work, the trees were falling. Not of their own accord, but by about four men with chainsaws, a big truck, and a wood chipper. Some of the trees that I have walked past all year had already been taken down and cut into manageable stumps. Observing the inner core of these trees, they seemed healthy.
Now, they would make excellent firewood.
On my way home on that same day, I once again stopped for my afternoon shot, and the men were gone. But they had been extremely productive. Or destructive. Take your pick.
Bate Island looks like a war zone. Tree trunks and branches litter the pathway to my photo spot. By the end of the week, I will have a clear line of sight from where I park my car to where I set up my tripod.
Bate Island will be a wasteland.
Where I have been turning my back for the last year, few trees will remain. What marks the end of a photo project marks the end to generations of growth.
I couldn't be more sad about ending my project. I wish I had turned my lens around more often.
I have called the NCC, which oversees Bate Island, to find out why so many trees were coming down. Are the culled trees suffering from Dutch Elm Disease (if that is their species)? So many elms have come down across the city. If these trees are oak, have they befallen Sudden Oak Death? The operator for the NCC wasn't aware of the situation but has promised to look into it and call me back.
By then, I fear, very few trees will remain on Bate Island.
The NCC phoned me this morning to say that the trees that are being cut down are, indeed, ash, and are being culled as part of the citywide plans to stem the spread of emerald ash borer. The trees must be cut down before the temperatures soar and the pests migrate.
You'd think that with this cold weather, the devastating creatures would have frozen to death!
Thanks to Paul at the NCC for getting back to me.
When I returned to Bate Island, this afternoon, to take my project photo, I chatted with some of the workers, who were loading chunks of ash trunks into a truck. They showed me borer holes in the wood and told me that the larvae was hibernating within. Only the chipping process, he informed me, would ensure their demise.
He believes some 5,000 trees have been cut down, recently, in the Ottawa area.