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 that 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.