The idea that trees have personalities may be offensive to science, but sometimes they just do. Such is the massive elm that sits in the middle of a Calgary Stampede parking lot. It boldly claims its place in the universe as it has done for more than 120 years, a long time in the history of this young city. Its great green breadth is a reminder of nature in the most sterile of urban places.

It was here before the Stampede itself, but now it must go. It must succumb to progress, at least what passes for progress in the modern city—development. The Scotiabank Saddledome is to be replaced by a new arena and events centre, and the old tree is in the way. The Calgary Flames win one over nature.

However, living into the digital age allows the venerable elm to enjoy a kind of immortality. A University of Calgary digital heritage group is preserving it as a three-dimensional digital archive. Its reality and its avatar are shown in the graphic on the right. Unlike others of its kind, it may live on forever. Still, the Stampede grounds will lose, to put it in the archive’s words, “a character-defining element.” A loss indeed.

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