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New life for fallen trees

April 2, 2009

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In December 2006, the devastating wind storm that destroyed hundreds of trees in Stanley Park also swept through a small grove adjacent to SFU’s Applied Science Building at Burnaby Mountain, knocking down approximately 20 trees and damaging the forest floor. Elizabeth Starr, SFU’s development planner with Facilities Services and a sustainability advisory committee member, knew something had to be done to restore this precious campus resource.

Facilities staff cleared the debris, chipped fallen branches and spread the mulch on the forest floor and planted new materials. Starr selected over 3,000 native species including ground cover, ferns, deciduous and coniferous trees. On Earth Day 2007, community members planted these materials throughout the grove. But they also left some of the damaged mature growth untouched to provide homes for birds and other wildlife.

"Replanting the forest with stronger, more diverse types of plant material was important to protect the grove for years to come," Starr says. "This is the only native forest inside Ring Road on university grounds and reminds us what Burnaby Mountain once looked like."

But one unanswered question remained: What to do with the large trees that were blown down?

Starr searched for sustainable options. Today, she’s proud of three works of art that are byproducts of the rescued timber.

In the archaeology museum, there is a bench and a drum table built from the grove’s trees. Walking westbound from parking lot B towards the Applied Science Building, you’ll notice the wind-damaged grove now has several types of newly planted trees and shrubs. But look closer and you’ll also see a gigantic man-made bird’s nest near the path.

All of the salvaged-wood creations were designed by local artist Brent Comber who specializes in creating modern urban forms from ancient sources. He was saddened by the devastation that occurred, and the nest symbolizes the themes of family, security, the power of nature and our connection to it. It is an ode to the birds who lost their nests as a result of the wind storms.

Says Starr: "From devastation we’ve rebuilt and now have a better, stronger forest."

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