This elm tree in the Victoria Park area of Calgary is also known colloquially as the Stampede Elm. Although designated as a heritage resource, no one is sure how old the tree actually is although it has preexisted all of the Calgary Stampedes and is at least 120 years. Planted on the north side of the Stampede Grounds close to the location of the first major hospital in Calgary, this tree has persisted throughout the development and growth of the City of Calgary to become a character defining element of Victoria Park.
January 7, 2021
Field Documentation Type:
Calgary’s History of Trees
Despite Calgary’s location in the prairies where natural tree diversity is limited, trees have always been important to those living in this area. Before Europeans, the the Piikani, Siksika, Kainaiwa (the Blackfoot Nations of the Peigan, Siksika and Blood), the Tsuut’ina (Sarcee Nation) and the Ĩyãħé Nakoda, Chiniquay and Sioux (the Stoney Nations of the Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley/Goodstoney) lived on and maintained the landscapes of Southern Alberta. Native trees were fundamental to the Indigenous peoples’ lives; for example, the straight strong trunks lodgepole pines made teepee poles, while flexible willow branches made smaller structures like sweat lodges .
When Europeans began to settle on the prairies, they brought with them an aesthetic and practical
desire for more trees. This desire was considered during development plans for major cities in the West . For Calgary, its relationship with trees was largely the result of William Pearce who, in 1890, said he envisioned Calgary as a “city of trees” .
Pearce was a surveyor, engineer, and statistician who held several appointments with land use agencies concerning the development of settlement lands throughout Western Canada . Throughout his various appointments, Pearce was reportedly always concerned with developments that benefited the majority and was heavily influenced by the City Beautiful Movement of the 1890s and 1900s, a reform philosophy popular in the early development of North American cities that suggested beautification would promote social harmony .
When appointed as an inspector for the Dominion Land Agencies in 1884, Pearce used his position to reserve land along the north side of the Bow River envisioning Calgary as a city full of tree-lined boulevards. That land today is Calgary’s landmark boulevard Memorial Drive . Pearce also started the first tree farm in Western Canada that was dedicated to experimenting with different types of trees to grow in the city with the goal of encouraging Calgarians to plant their own .
Pearce was not the only person dedicated to vegetative beauty of the city though. In 1913 William Reader became Calgary’s third Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries. Reader immediately began development on a new civic nursery, and dedicated himself to public improvement projects surrounding the creation of additional tree-lined boulevards . Reader planted trees, created boulevards, and beautified the city until the end of his tenure in 1942. During that time Reader created numerous streetscapes that have since been added to Calgary’s Inventory of Historic Resources .
American Elms in Calgary
Today, Calgary has 73 identified locations of historic trees . One of the more famous and cherished trees in the city is the Victoria Park American elm tree, also known as the Stampede Elm. American elms (Ulmus americana) were exceptionally popular trees during the City Beautiful Movement . Despite the popularity of American elms for the movement, the Stampede Elm is only one of five of this species listed on the historic tree inventory for the City of Calgary. The other elms are located in the University of Calgary Craigie Hall Courtyard, Thompson Square, Scott House, and the Avenue of Trees along 11th Ave NE . Unfortunately, due to the susceptibility of these trees to Dutch elm disease they are no longer recommended as species for urban forests .
The Stampede Elm is located in the Northwest parking lot for the Stampede Grounds near the location of Calgary’s first hospital (now the site of the Rundle Ruins). No one knows how old the tree is except that it was likely planted in the early 1900s [4,5]. At this time, the area was residential and it is likely that the tree may have been planted in someone’s yard [4,5].
Development and the Stampede Elm
No matter who planted it, the Stampede Elm has preexisted even the notion of the infamous Calgary Stampede which started in 1912. It has born witness to the drastic changes and development that Calgary’s Victoria Park area has undergone in the last century, including the construction of the Saddledome in 1980 [4,5].
With approval for new event plans finalized in the summer of 2019, the Stampede elm sits in the location of the proposed new arena [4,5]. The fate of the elm is still currently unknown, but digital documentation took place in an effort to preserve this tree no matter what its future will be.
For those who wish to learn more about the urban forests of Calgary, visit the City of Calgary’s interactive urban forest management map page. Here, you can see the number of trees by neighbourhood as well as sort by type and size of trees.
 City of Calgary. 2021. Calgary’s Urban Forest. Electronic document, https://www.calgary.ca/content/dam/www/csps/parks/documents/planning-and-operations/tree-management/calgarys-urban-foresty-history.pdf, accessed January 26, 2021.
 Breen, D. Pearce, William. Dictionary of Canadian Biography 15. University of Toronto. Electronic document, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pearce_william_15E.html., accessed January 26, 2021.
 The Morton Arboretum. 2021. American Elm. Electronic document, https://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/american-elm, accessed January 26, 2021.
 Babych, Stephanie. 2019. Calgary Herald, “If Only Trees If only trees could tell us stories’: Calgary’s iconic Stampede Elm could get the ax.” August 3. Electronic document, https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/if-only-trees-could-tell-us-stories-calgarys-iconic-stampede-elm-could-get-the-ax, accessed January 26, 2021.
 Pearson, H. Global News. “How will this decades-old Calgary elm tree be impacted by the new arena?” August 2. Electronic document, https://globalnews.ca/news/5720443/calgary-old-elm-tree-stampede-grounds-new-arena/, accessed January 26, 2021.
This photo gallery shows images of the Stampede Elm. Historic images of the tree are difficult to search for and if you have anything you would like to contribute to this gallery please contact us at email@example.com !
Digitally Capturing the Stampede Elm
The Capture2Preserv Team worked with Calgary Parks to capture the Stampede Elm prior to its move due to the new Stampede Arena being built. It is intended to rescan the tree after a period of 5 years to assess how well the tree has re-established its self in its new location. The Stampede Elem was recorded with the Z+F 5010X Laser Scanner with a total of 12 scan positions and six targets placed around the the tree to help with the registration process. The scans were registered using Z+F Laser Control software and then exported into AutoDesk ReCap for further processing. The resulting point cloud was used to create a detailed 3D model of the tree.
Open Access Scanning Data
The raw data files for this project are available for download from the archive repository. Scans are .las file format. Please download the metadata template to access metadata associated with each file. All data is published under the Attribution-Non-Commercial Creatives Common License CC BY-NC 4.0 and we would ask that you acknowledge this repository in any research that results from the use of these data sets.