Memorial Drive trees

Running alongside the Bow River, Memorial Drive is one of the most scenic car and bike routes in Calgary, and the trees planted here serve as a living commemoration to the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Learn about the Landscape of Memory project.

About the trees on Memorial Drive

After the First World War, a number of groups and individuals came together to plant a tree for each fallen soldier of the Great War. The hope was that a living memorial would bring solace to grieving families who did not have graves to visit. On May 11, 1922, the first tree was planted on Sunnyside Boulevard (now Memorial Drive), between ninth and nine-and-a-half St. N.W by Mayor Adams. Planting continued steadily through until 1928 and a grand total of 3,278 trees were planted.

As many of the original trees are nearing the end of their lifecycle, The City is spearheading the regeneration and revitalization of Memorial Drive. This plan will concentrate on improving the aesthetic value of the landscape by introducing a variety of new tree species, while protecting the existing legacy and continuing the historic, environmental and cultural integrity of Memorial Drive. The City is collaborating with stakeholders and interest groups –many of which have members who were involved in the original planting – to assist in developing the plan for the future of Memorial Drive.

Fast facts on Memorial Drive's trees

  • The majority of trees planted from 1922 to 1928 were Populus wobbstii – more commonly referred to as poplars. These poplars are now at, or nearing the end of their lifecycle.
  • The trees are thought to be wild trees brought to Calgary by miners returning from Drumheller.
  • In 1922, the trees were sold for $1.
  • Metal discs were attached to stands in front of each tree. The discs were inscribed with the year, the donor's name and a tag number.
  • City of Calgary parks began cloning the original poplars in 2001 to continue the tree’s heritage. Today we have 1,500 offspring growing in Grand Forks, BC.
  • All the poplar trees along Memorial Drive are female, but one. Female poplars bear the cotton – which provides food for ducks, carries tree seeds and provides nesting material for birds and animals.

Fallen Soldier commemoration

At the 2003 Calgary Stampede, a commemorative poplar trunk from Memorial Drive was carved into the likeness of Sergeant George Ross Thompson, one of the fallen soldiers of the Great War. Sergeant Thompson enlisted in Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in August 1914 as a private soldier. He was killed in action by enemy machine gun fire on September 28, 1918 near Tilloy, France. Thompson died in the last hundred days of the war after serving in many of the Regiment's most difficult battles.

The City would like to thank the Calgary Stampede and Exhibition Board, the Royal Canadian Legion Centennial Calgary Branch #285 and Lynx Fencing for making this important commemoration possible.