A Second Life for Christmas Trees at The Ephemeral Forest at Parc Jarry, Montreal

janvier 26, 2021
Park People

They say all good things must come to an end. But sometimes, if we are lucky, endings can be the start of something even more beautiful. That is exactly what happened at Parc Jarry in the Villeray-St-Michel-Parc-Extension borough of Montreal, where the community park group Coalition des amis du Parc Jarry (CAP Jarry), recipients of a TD Park People Winter Grant, turned the cast-offs of the Christmas season into a beautiful Ephemeral Forest of recycled trees that reflected community members’ hope and dreams. 



Every January, once the holidays come to an end, bare Christmas trees are tossed to the curb. In fact, there are approximately 6 million trees in Canada that await the landfill every year. If not recycled properly and simply thrown out, every tree can create approximately 16kg of carbon dioxide. Not only does this have a significant impact on the environment, but it also misses a great opportunity to give the trees a more impactful second life. 

CAP Jarry, led by Michel Lafleur, set out to tackle this challenge. Instead of the landfill, they invited all Montreal residents to bring their old Christmas trees to Parc Jarry, plant them in pre-made wooden stands, and create a magical Ephemeral Forest where park-goers could wander in a safe and socially-distanced manner. After a two-weeks on display in the park, a company specializing in repurposing wood removed the trees and gave them a new life. 



To make the trees even more magical, community members were invited to write their wishes and hopes for the new year on little pieces of paper tied to their tree. This gave every tree a personal touch and it gave people a chance to express their vision for the future. At a time when social interactions are rare and we long to interact with others, reading the personal wishes on every tree felt like an intimate exchange with the Christmas tree’s new owner – their ideas, their hopes, and dreams for the future. 



The forest created a sense of human connection at a time when people need it most. Walking through the hundreds of trees in the middle of the vast Parc Jarry created an inspiring, joyful and frankly magical experience.


“Everyone was smiling”, remembers Villeray’s mayor Mme. Fumagalli, who helped facilitate the project from a political and administrative point of view. “There was a lot of curiosity, a kind of mutual help, above all, such synergy… The project had an enormous positive impact”. 



Mme. Fumagalli found it especially extraordinary how citizens got involved and took ownership of their parks this winter. From the Ephemeral Forest to the hordes of Montrealers who built snowmen across city parks after a snowstorm, she says we clearly see “the necessity during winter to have some kind of animation, especially with the current COVID context”. 



Another key to this event’s success was in its simplicity: the idea is easily transferable to other parks, boroughs and cities to create their own magical Ephemeral Forest. “I am certain that it is an idea that will have a snowball effect”, assures Mme. Fumagalli. “There is so much potential, from vacant lots to small parks, the reproducible aspect on a small scale, and the fact that it requires few resources”.

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