In advance of Remembrance Day, a group of citizen volunteers is hosting a fall clean-up event at Ashburnham Memorial Park in Peterborough’s East City — known to locals as Armour Hill — on Saturday (November 5).
This is the third clean-up event organized by the Ashburnham Memorial Stewardship Group, founded in June 2021 to advocate for positive changes to the historical park, which features a memorial to local residents who died in World War I.
Because it is the highest point in Peterborough, Armour Hill is a popular destination during the summer (largely because of the commanding views) and during the winter for tobogganing. Unfortunately, these activities also result in a large amount of waste left behind in the park.
Previous fall and spring clean-up events hosted by the Ashburnham Memorial Stewardship Group have collected a total of 36 bags of garbage, four bags of recyclables, as well as several large items including tires and wheels, signposts, doors, and mirrors. More than 2.5 pounds of cigarette butts have been removed from the park by Donna Reid’s Butt 1 community initiative for charity.
The November 5th clean-up event begins at 10 a.m., rain or shine, with volunteers meeting at the Heritage Pavilion at the top of Armour Hill near the Peterborough Museum and Archives. The event will begin with a land acknowledgement and orientation. Supplies, snacks, and hot beverages will be provided, but volunteers are asked to bring optional work gloves, a mug for beverages, and to dress for the weather.
The spring clean-up event saw more than 50 volunteers participate. The fall clean-up tends to focus on the upper park around the large parking lot where lot of trash seems finds its way into the surrounding forest.
“Ashburnham Memorial Park is approximately 50 acres in size, so the more volunteers that show up to help at these clean-ups, the more widespread our cleaning efforts can be,” the group states on its website.
The traditional territory of the Mississauga Anishinaabeg, the land that comprises Ashburnham Memorial Park became Crown land that was purchased by European settler Reverend Samuel Armour in 1833. Part of Armour’s land (excluding the hill) was later expropriated by the federal government for the building of the Trent Canal.
When Armour’s estate was being settled in the 1920s, 35 acres of land on the top of the hill was offered to the City of Peterborough for purchase. Following much debate — with proponents of the purchase advocating using the land for a memorial for local men who died fighting in World War I — the city declined to purchase the land after a public vote in 1922,
The following year, a group of 35 women known as the Women’s Patriotic League of Ashburnham put a downpayment on the land and, over the next 14 years, raised enough funds to purchase the property. The group also arranged and paid for the planting of thousands of trees and commissioned the construction of the roadway (now known as Museum Drive) and the parking area.
When the group disbanded in 1937, they donated the park to the City of Peterborough to serve in perpetuity as a war memorial.
On June 24, 1959, a memorial cairn and plaque dedication was held on top of the hill of Ashburnham Memorial Park. The inscription reads, “This park was given to the City of Peterborough by the Women’s Patriotic League of Ashburnham in memory of the men of Peterborough who fell in the Great War of 1914-1918.”
In recognition of both the historical and environmental significance of the park, the Ashburnham Memorial Stewardship Group is seeking to enhance stewardship of the park for positive activities such as bird watching, hiking, astronomy, war memorial ceremonies, school visits, and tourism while decreasing known negative behaviours that happen at the park such as speeding and reckless driving, breaking of bottles, garbage dumping, illegal fireworks, and more.
The Ashburnham Memorial Stewardship Group meets monthly to discuss issues and ideas for the park and to liaise with the city councillors representing Ashburnham Ward on city council. The group recently distributed 1,000 flyers to East City residents, worked with the city to identify an infrastructure improvement opportunity for the memorial cairn, partnered with Trent University’s School of the Environment to create a gap analysis report, and participated in the public consultations for the city’s Eastside Transportation Study which has the potential to affect the park.
For more information about the Ashburnham Memorial Stewardship Group, and to complete a survey about the future of the park, visit the group’s new website at ashburnhamstewardship.com.