Words & pics by Ed King
Local residents and community campaigners are up in arms after a “hurtful and ugly” act of vandalism recently destroyed a Covid memorial garden in Bleak Hill Park.
According to Short Heath Fields Trust (SHFT), the action group that fundraised and built the Covid memorial, vandals snapped in half the ornamental cherry trees that stood centre place in the garden – before using the wooden stakes to try and smash the sign welcoming people to the site.
Away from the memorial garden, which is situated along the path cutting through the park from Short Heath Road to Marsh Lane, vandals also damaged a bin for dog mess SHFT had also installed.
Short Heath Fields Trust began building the Covid memorial garden on Bleak Hill Park after having plans approved by Birmingham City Council in March 2021 and securing funding from the National Lottery.
400 trees were further donated by the Woodland Trust, as part of their ‘Free Trees for Schools and Communities’ initiative.
Around 6000 bulbs have also been plated at the Bleak Hill Park Covid memorial, including British bluebells, snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils.
However, the community led project has seen challenges since the start – including plants being stolen, and the accidental destruction of 200 trees when ‘Council error’ mowed them down during routine park maintenance.
Local residents have also reported significant litter at the site, including broken booze bottles and drinks cans scattered around the two benches made especially from environmentally friendly recycled plastics.
A spokesperson form SHFT told Erdington Local: “This is a heartbreaking moment for the Trust and its members, many of whom have worked hard on this project.
“The community turned out in all weathers to make this a peaceful but engaging part of the park and a fitting memorial for Erdington people lost to Covid 19.
“This project has hit obstacles at every stage, including the Council mowing down the sapling trees in the area they told us to plant, to the plants being stolen. But this is by far the most hurtful and ugly.
“Local tempers are running high, and people are extremely disgusted at the mindless vandalism and destruction of the ornamental cherry trees in the memorial site and the dog mess bin further in the park.
“Locals are asking questions like ‘why?’ and ‘what possesses anyone to think this is OK?’”
But despite the cruel attack, which has brought widespread condemnation of those responsible, the local community are committed to rebuilding the Covid memorial garden and breathing new life into the project.
One of the four cherry tress remained untouched by the vandals, which residents and campaigners now see as a sign of hope for the community led Covid memorial garden.
A spokesperson for Short Heath Fields Trust added: “One tree remains, but that tree represents the hope and belief that we as a community will overcome and win against the adversity that stands in our way.
“The community will always win.”
For more on Short Heath Fields Trust visit www.shortheathfieldstrust.godaddysites.com/