After volunteering as the chair of the Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) for the last nine years, Susan Bryant is stepping down from the position.
“Plenty long enough,” she said.
She said the committee is full of excellent people volunteering and working hard to make the township better, so she’s not worried about the organization losing energy. It’s a team effort.
“I figure my main responsibility is to make sure the meetings don’t last more than two hours,” she said. “I’m the gavel.”
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“While Susan was chair of TWEEC, I was chair of Trees for Woolwich which is a subset of TWEEC,” said Inga Rinne, another volunteer with the committee. “She was a joy to work with, always engaged, anxious to help where she could and firmly cheerful in the face of obstacles.”
Bryant is grateful for the committee.
“TWEEC is a wonderful organization that saved me way back when, in those early days of the water crisis and the hearings, everything was so adversarial. It was really stressful,” she said. Since the late 1980s, Bryant has been heavily involved in the cleanup of Elmira’s creek and aquifer that were discovered to be contaminated with toxic and cancer-causing chemicals.
“And so, when TWEEC came along, the opportunity to do some hands-on [activities], things that you know are going to help. Maybe a drop in the bucket, but still, planting trees, promoting native plants, cleaning up ditches and working with other people hands-on was just such a positive, relaxing, wonderful, meaningful way to spend time. That’s what TWEEC has been for me. And you know, it’s given me a whole tribe of wonderful friends,” she said.
TWEEC was formed in February 2004. It was the brainchild of Dave Gosnay, a former director of engineering and planning at the township. He proposed the township give funds to a group of community volunteers to improve the township’s environment. Today the committee continues to meet regularly to plan projects, and organize groups and volunteers to carry them out.
In 2011, the group decided to create the sub-committee Trees for Woolwich. “We decided that if we didn’t take it up a notch, we weren’t actually going to make any significant inroads into the tree canopy,” said Rinne.
Together, volunteers with TWEEC and Trees for Woolwich have planted tens of thousands of trees, conducted a tree inventory in Elmira, carried out the pruning of every small tree in Elmira, worked with schools to produce seedlings, established a nursery, restored many acres of land and much more.
“TWEEC’s future will depend on the new committee. I think there is tremendous potential on the climate change action front as the issue becomes more front and centre,” said Rinne.
Bryant does not know who will be replacing her as chair.
“At the moment there is not an heir apparent for Susan, but will be chosen by the new committee,” said Rinne.
“In the way it goes with TWEEC, people come up with things they want to do, and if they’re willing to take the lead and do them, and gather some volunteers to help, that’s the way it works. It’s not up to the chair to direct what we do,” said Bryant.
She says she is going to stay on the committee, and focus on keeping track of the environmental recommendations previously given to the township in the Elmira green infrastructure report given to the township in 2018.
Through a grant from the region, TWEEC hired a consultant to produce the report. The point was to create a 20-year plan focused on increasing Elmira’s tree canopy, as well as stormwater management and increasing habitat in the township.
“This was the follow-up to all the trees being cut down in the urban area, and we figured we needed some professional help that was not township staff,” Bryant said.
The report included recommendations for improvements, “for the way the township deals with trees and development, you know, soils around trees and all kinds of stuff like that. Maintenance. And there’s short term recommendations, longer term and aspirational goals.”
She says one of the aspirational goals is to achieve 30 per cent canopy tree cover in the township, “which we’re way behind on,” she said.
Rinne says the group has also just created the Susan Bryant Volunteer Award. “The criteria for which are basically a recognition of someone who puts in time and effort. Any volunteer effort that has a good story,” she said.
For her part, Bryant wants to spend more time planting trees. “I just hope to get out and dig in the dirt,” she said.