Exploration and Pilgrimage : Exploring Sudbury
Bell Park is a large urban greenspace with a paved trail and boardwalk that stretches around the shores of the beautiful Ramsey Lake. As we walked through the park we saw a flock of Mallards and Canada Geese under a weeping willow, looking like they were used to being fed at that spot. Ring-billed Gulls circled above the dark blue lake, and several Double-crested Cormorants skimmed low over the water.
As we progressed along the shore we passed the Bell Park Flower garden, which was a beautifully landscaped hill, full of blooming flowers. After walking across a small wooden bridge we came to a playground area, and then the Bell Park Concession stand which offers a variety of foods, cold drinks, and ice cream. It is located just behind a beautiful sandy beach, which was full of families enjoying a swim in the clear and sandy-bottomed lake.
A little farther along the shore we came to the Miner's Memorial Walk. This winding brick pathway led up through a stand of birch trees to a beautiful bronze sculpture commemorating Sudbury's history of mining. Sudbury is Canada's largest exporter of nickel, and has a long history of mining. The 15 ft tall monument is a tribute to miners, showing the progression from the first prospectors with their picks and axes up to modern miners with their high tech tools. The sculpture is two sided, representing the past and future of mining, and there are hundreds of figures descending the sides down to a pair of hands, that are reaching down into the earth. The thought provoking piece was created by Timothy P. Schmalz, whose work we've seen in Midland and in the cathedrals of Europe, and who made the famous 'First from the Flames' 911 monument to firefighters in New York.
Sudbury has a mining history that dates back to 1883. Before that time the region was inhabited by the Ojibwe people of the Algonquin group. Nickel ore was discovered in 1883 during the construction of the transcontinental railway, and mining related industries have dominated the economy of the area ever since, with Inco (now Vale Ltd) and Falconbridge (now Glencore) operating the two largest mines.
After walking through the beautiful, treed park and finishing the interview we decided to visit Science North, which is Northern Ontario's most popular tourist attraction. This interactive science museum is housed in two snowflake-shaped buildings that are partially located underground, and it offers visitors the opportunity to learn about geology, space, local ecology, medicine, physics, and more.
We entered through a rock tunnel that passed through a million-year-old geological fault. Of all the paths we've walked so far on the Great Trail to get us here, this felt like a new experience!
At the other end of the tunnel was a large cavern, a planetarium, and an IMAX theater. As we climbed the four-story spiral staircase we got a unique view of a 20 m fin whale skeleton, recovered from Anticosti Island, that was suspended from the ceiling.
We explored the nature exhibits on the second level, which included fossils, shells, rocks, a lapidary where we watched rocks being cut, ground, and polished. The butterfly house was closed, but there were other insects on display, including a gigantic orange snail, hissing cockroaches, and a diverse collection of stick insects, one of which was persistently making it's way up onto the head of the nature interpreter who was holding it.
The next level up included information on local ecology, and included live ambassadors from the forest (a skunk and a porcupine), rivers and lakes (two live beavers, and both native and introduced turtle species), and wetlands (lots of different frogs). There was also a section with snakes, an exhibit with a flying squirrel, and a nocturnal area featuring little brown bats.
The top level of Science North featured many different hands-on opportunities to learn about engineering, technology, anatomy, astronomy, and the working of the human body. Several measures were in place to prevent the spread of Covid 19, including vats of hand sanitizer at every station and display. Always mindful of avoiding the spread of this disease we were careful not to touch anything, although we enjoyed watching others exploring the various challenges.
On our way back to the motel we stopped at Sudbury's Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Although there is a strong Roman Catholic theme to this hilltop site, it is also a place of tranquility and reflection for a multiplicity of faiths.
The site contained about twenty monuments, including the stations of the cross, and a covered palisade with a fountain at the center that is meant to replenish the body and soul.
At the heart of the well landscaped site were the Ten Commandments, written in stone. They were surrounded by sculptures representing the mysteries of joy, light, sorrow, and glory.
A side path lead to the Grotto Shrine with an adjacent statue of St. Bernadette who, beginning in 1958 witnessed eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France.
central to the site was a Monument to Peace which bore the Alpha and
Omega symbol of the Holy Spirit. This symbol stands for all-powerful
God’s action in the world. This monument also bore the symbols of twelve
other world regions, representing different faiths.
In the afternoon we walked around downtown Sudbury, taking time to photograph some of the amazing street art that can be found throughout the city. Some of it speaks to the history of mining and labour, some to the African American community, and some to creativity.
One of our favourite exhibits was a mural on respect that was created by a group of teenagers.
As we walked through the city, and especially as we walked through Memorial Park, we noticed that Sudbury has a very large homeless population. Our motel is next to the homeless shelter, which also serves as a soup kitchen. We were surprised to see it was dispensing meals from Tim Hortons, and learned that the MacKenzie Family, who own eight Tim Hortons in the area, has donated free soup to the mission for 30 weeks to help feed those in need. The shelter is covering the cost of turning this donation into a full meal. Great Lakes Pizza is another local business that is chipping in to provide weekend meals for the shelter, at a cost of about $23,000. It was heartwarming to learn of this community effort to address the problem, although signs outside the mission suggest it is still struggling to provide one full meal a day to those who rely on it. This is a stark reminder of just how privileged we are to be doing what we're doing. We are grateful every day.
As we explored the city we found it has several personalities. There is a young, alternative, creative vibe, presumably from the university. There is an apparently healthy middle class that frequents the trendy bars, restaurants, and shops downtown. There are a lot of government buildings around town, all providing employment. And there is a rougher edge to the town as well, composed of working class people, many of whom are clearly struggling. Expensive cars drive past the shelter, and both families and students frequent the parks along with the homeless. It is an interesting city, set in a beautiful landscape, and it has left us with ample food for thought.
See you on the trail!
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