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Plenty of volunteer opportunities for those looking to make Woolwich green

Several members of the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) and township staff – Susan Bryant, Inga Rinne, Rob Albrecht, Brad Hergott and Ann Roberts – met at Elmira’s Bolender Park on Wednesday to discuss greening initiatives. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

A series of greening initiatives planned for Woolwich will provide hands-on opportunities for residents to boost the environment where they live.

Tree pruning, planting, and inventory training events will be taking place through the upcoming months, starting April 8. It is all aimed towards increasing the canopy cover in Elmira from the current 16.4 per cent to 30 per cent. Inga Rinne, who spearheaded the effort, said there is a significant need for more trees in the community.

“Surprisingly enough, 16.4 per cent is quite a bit less than Toronto, Guelph, and Cambridge – the canopy cover in Toronto is 26.6 to 28 per cent,” said Rinne. “I was a bit surprised myself, frankly. And it’s getting worse in the sense that we’re losing trees by the day to the emerald ash borer.”

The insect threat comes from a green jewel beetle that is highly destructive to the local tree cover. Considered an invasive species, it was found in North America in 2002 and has been wreaking havoc on ash trees in southwestern Ontario ever since.

“If you were to subtract the trees we’ve lost, that’s the calculation that nobody likes to make,” said Rinne. “But the emerald ash borer, in particular, has really done a number on our trees.”

Trees for Woolwich has worked hard to reverse this damage, however. Along with volunteers and others in the community, the group has planted some 27,400 trees since 2011.

It’s not just public spaces that are involved – the group encourages homeowners to increase the tree cover on their properties. To that end, it will be giving out gift vouchers that can be applied towards the purchase of trees.

“For a $5 donation to Trees for Woolwich, they will get a $50 voucher that they can take to a local nursery and get a native tree to plant in their yard,” said Rinne. “And we’ll have some more vouchers in the fall. Fall is a great time to plant because it tends to be kind of wet, so you plant them to get the chance to get the roots to be well-watered.”

The first initiatives involve tree pruning, which helps maintain the health of trees by selectively removing certain parts such as dead branches. It should be done only with an understanding of tree biology since, which is why in-class sessions will be provided to volunteers with arborist Chris Morrison of Stormwater Forestry.

Pruning sessions are set for April 8,  April 10 and April 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Elmira.

Tree planting dates are set for April 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., April 27 at the Kissing Bridge Trailway near West Montrose from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The May 4 Greening Initiative event begins at 11 a.m. at Bolender Park in Elmira.

There is also the Tree Inventory training in Elora, aimed at taking stock of the current tree situation, scheduled for May 11. It’s an all-day event beginning at 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. hosted by the Elora Neighbourhoods group, with lunch included. Other training includes tree identification and assessing tree health.

Anyone interested in signing up or learning more information can contact Ann Roberts at the Township of Woolwich, aroberts@woolwich.ca or 519-669-1647, ext. 7027.

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