Chatham-Kent – The McKinlay Funeral Homes Ltd. is expanding its memorial forest program. Today, a small groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Skakel Conservation Area, southeast of Thamesville to mark the beginnings of a new ‘memorial forest’ with the funeral home.
Skakel Conservation Area is a 55 acre property – 42 acres workable farm land and 13 acres naturalized over the past 10 years with tallgrass prairie, wetlands, Jack Pine, a grass buffer strip and now a future memorial forest.
This summer, LTVCA staff met at the Skakel site with Nathan McKinlay from McKinlay Funeral Homes Ltd. to explore the feasibility of planting trees on a yearly basis through the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Foundation’s Memorial Tree Program.
Nathan McKinlay shares his thoughts on this new memorial forest:
“In an age of shrinking forestation, we are thrilled by the success of the McKinlay Woodlands reforestation project at C.M. Wilson Conservation Area. Over the past 20 years, more than 5,750 trees grow in memory of a loved one. In 2021, we can safely say that the reforestation mission at C.M. Wilson has been a success. While trees will need replacing over time, we are almost out of space for new growth. The time has come to expand our reforestation efforts into a new memorial forest.
John Skakel was a farmer, genealogist, environmentalist and toy maker. He passed away in 2015. During his life, John spent tireless hours cataloging grave markers at many local cemeteries and went so far as to build his own website to help families find the markers of their ancestors. John was also a neighbour, farming blocks away from the McKinlay home farm, where three generations of my family tilled the land.
Years ago, John donated one of his farms to the LTVCA. Recently, the Conservation Authority and the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Foundation approached us about establishing a new memorial forest there. With John’s passion for remembrance and the physical proximity of the land to the home farm, it felt ‘meant to be’. A short drive from Ridgetown, Blenheim and Chatham, there are plans to create walking paths through the area, allowing passersby to admire the beauty of the Carolinian forests. We will also continue our efforts to reforest the T.R.E.E.S. Park in Ridgetown and the Merlin Conservation Area.
We would like to thank all of the families who have entrusted us over the years, and to the donors who regularly plant trees in memory of their loved ones. Because your loved one lived, a forest now grows.”
For further information:
Randall VanWagner – Manager Conservation Lands and Services (LTVCA)
L to R – Randall VanWagner (LTVCA), Roberta Dickson (sister of the late John Skakel), Nathan McKinlay (McKinlay Funeral Homes Ltd.) Planting the first memorial tree (Paper Birch) in memory of John Skakel today at the Skakel Conservation Area.