Re­gion gives Elmira green­ing ini­tia­tive $16,000 boost

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

WHEN THE SUN HASN’T made an ap­pear­ance in over a week, and there’s snow on the ground and the trees are all bar­ren, it’s hard to think about any­thing green. But win­ter in­evitably gives over to spring, and this year is look­ing to be an es­pe­cially green sea­son as the Town­ship of Wool­wich En­vi­ron­men­tal En­hance­ment Com­mit­tee (TWEEC) has plans and some money to step up its ef­forts,

TWEEC, a vol­un­teer com­mit­tee un­der the aus­pices of Wool­wich coun­cil, will re­ceive $16,000 from the Re­gion of Water­loo, part of $145,000 in en­vi­ron­men­tal grants for 22 or­ga­ni­za­tions ap­proved last week by re­gional coun­cil.

Wool­wich’s share will go to­wards the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Elmira green­ing plan, which was for­mu­lated by TWEEC and for­mally adopted by the town­ship in Septem­ber. The plan serves as a roadmap of sorts for the town­ship to boost its nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments and cul­ti­vate green­ery.

“Cour­tesy of this money, [we have] a cou­ple of projects that will hap­pen in the spring,” said Inga Rinne, chair for the Trees for Wool­wich group un­der the TWEEC ban­ner.

Per­haps the most novel of the lot is a plan to en­list a group of com­mit­ted vol­un­teers in the area and train them to main­tain the ex­ist­ing trees in the town­ship.

“[We would be] ini­ti­at­ing and co­or­di­nat­ing a vol­un­teer tree-care pro­gram,” ex­plained Ann Roberts, the trails co­or­di­na­tor with the town­ship. “So that would be com­prised of tree in­ven­tory work, main­te­nance work which would likely in­clude prun­ing and mulching, and an ed­u­ca­tion com­po­nent.”

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of prun­ing that no­body ever seems to quite get to,” said Rinne. “If you prune them prop­erly, they

grow a lot bet­ter. What we want to do [is] a bla­tant copy­ing of the pro­gram in Elora called Neigh­bourWoods.”

Draw­ing on the Elora pro­gram’s years of ex­pe­ri­ence, TWEEC is hop­ing not just to add to the town­ship’s nat­u­ral spa­ces, but to sup­port the ex­ist­ing plant life in the area.

“They have a team of trained vol­un­teers that are do­ing prun­ing,” ex­plained Rinne of the Elora pro­gram they hope to em­u­late.

“Now they’re do­ing prun­ing on smaller plants,” she added, not­ing that vol­un­teers would re­strict them­selves to eas­ily main­tained trees and plants. “They have no high-wire acts go­ing through.”

TWEEC is also work­ing to re­move and re­place the re­main­ing ash trees in Elmira, with a group­ing of about 14 trees in town slated for re­place­ment. Rinne notes, how­ever, that there isn’t a proper count on the num­ber of ash trees in the area, and the con­di­tion they’re in, lim­it­ing the abil­ity of the town­ship to bud­get for their re­moval.

To that end, TWEEC is hop­ing to cre­ate an in­ven­tory of all tree species, beyond just ash, in se­lected lo­ca­tions around the town­ship.

“So far, the in­ven­tory that has been launched by sum­mer stu­dents [hired by the town­ship] for the last two sum­mers has been strictly cri­sis man­age­ment. They’ve been iden­ti­fy­ing haz­ard trees,” said Rinne.

TWEEC is hop­ing to take a more proac­tive ap­proach to the town­ship’s fu­ture tree man­age­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.

“So ba­si­cally, there isn’t re­ally a tree in­ven­tory now that tells us what do we have in the way of species? What kind of shape are they in?” she said. “We don’t know how many more ash trees have to come down. Nor do we know what kind of shape those trees are in. Are they healthy, ro­bust, or are they on their last legs? Are they in need of prun­ing?”

Apart from the some of the big­ger ini­tia­tives that are be­ing launched in the com­ing spring, the lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal group is also hop­ing to or­ga­nize more com­mu­nity tree plant­ings in the spring.

“We want to host two plant­ing launch events in Elmira. One will be at Bolen­der Park and throw a lit­tle shade on some of the play ar­eas over there,” said Rinne. “We’ve got some swings sit­ting out in the blaz­ing sun, prob­a­bly more to the point for the par­ents who are watch­ing.”

A sec­ond plant­ing is also be­ing planned at Gore Park, she adds.

“If you look at some of the trees in Gore Park, they’re not look­ing very happy. There are some that have dy­ing limbs and such. We need to have those looked at and de­cide whether they need to come down, and some will be re­placed.”

As part of the plant­ings, Rinne says that the group are hop­ing to add plaques by the trees nam­ing the par­tic­u­lar species planted.

The tree plant­ings are cen­tral to the town­ship’s green­ing plan, which calls en­hanced tree cover in the area – that is, the per­cent­age area of the town­ship cov­ered by nat­u­ral fo­liage. The goal is to reach a cov­er­age of 30 per cent. It’s an am­bi­tious num­ber for the town­ship which, de­spite its ru­ral char­ac­ter, ac­tu­ally has less cov­er­age than cities like Toronto, with an area of 16.3 per cent (ver­sus 26.6 per cent in Toronto).

In­creas­ing that cov­er­age would pro­vide the town­ship with a host of ben­e­fits, say mem­bers of TWEEC. Beyond just lend­ing a more pleas­ing aes­thetic to the area, a greener down­town core in Elmira, for ex­am­ple – which has been grap­pling with the loss of its ash trees to the borer in­fes­ta­tion – would at­tract greater foot traf­fic and tourism to the area. En­hanced cover would also serve as a nat­u­ral source of shade for the town­ship, cool­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment, as well as re­duce storm-wa­ter runoff and pro­vide a nat­u­ral car­bon sink in the re­gion.

“It’ll be I think an ex­cit­ing spring, in terms of a lot of new ini­tia­tives, and I think some real en­thu­si­asm around im­ple­ment­ing this whole green­ing plan,” said Rinne.

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