Wellington Green Legacy receives 2010 Watershed Award from GRCA
By Janet Baine
Cambridge - Wellington Green Legacy started in 2004 with the simple idea that it would plant 150,000 trees in Wellington County that year to help celebrate the county’s 150th anniversary.
The anniversary is long gone, but Green Legacy has continued to grow and plant trees to become what the county believes is the largest municipal tree planting program in North America. On Oct. 3, it celebrated the planting of its one millionth tree. Green Legacy also received a 2010 Grand River Watershed Award, given by the Grand River Conservation Authority to organizations and individuals that have made an outstanding contribution to conservation through environmental work.
“The Green Legacy program is making a difference by not only planting more than 150,000 trees annually, but also by engaging the hearts and minds of thousands of volunteers,” said Tracey Ryan, supervisor of conservation services at the GRCA. “The County council showed tremendous foresight in developing this program.”
Wellington County has 17 per cent forest cover, which is about average for the Grand River watershed. It is heading towards 30 per cent forest cover, which is recommended by Environment Canada for a healthy watershed. Each year Green Legacy plants 1,000 more trees than the initial 150,000 and the tally was up to 156,000 this spring.
The county has operated a tree nursery at Little Tract County Forest in Puslinch Township just east of Cambridge since 2006. This former farm now has four greenhouses, a large walk-in cooler and trees are also grown outside. The trees are a variety of native species and include seedlings as well as saplings. Interestingly, the property was planted with trees during an earlier reforestation project in the 1940s.
Green Legacy has school programs that fit with the provincial curriculum for students, but goes beyond this to include nature walks and other activities. A total of 6,000 students assisted Green Legacy this year. Those from kindergarten to Grade 3 grow trees from seeds in their classroom, those in Grade 4 to 6 help at the greenhouse and older students plant trees each spring. All schools in the county are invited to participate in the program.
“The Green Legacy is a community driven program. Its success would not be possible without all of our partners and volunteers,” said Rob Johnson, Green Legacy tree Nursery manager. “Together we are all making Wellington County a little greener.”
People need to learn why trees are important first so they learn that trees provide shade, help clean the air and water, keep soil on the land and help mitigate the challenge of climate change. In fact there are many ways that trees boost the environment, biodiversity and the economy. Research even shows that a visit to a forest can boost a person’s immune system.
People of all ages are reconnecting with nature by learning about and planting trees. Some individuals come to the nursery regularly, but other volunteers are from the community, including the correctional centre, exchange student programs, and half-way homes. Even the 2,600 Girl Guides from across Canada who were at Guelph Lake for a jamboree this summer came to volunteer at the Green Legacy nursery. They are building skills and a better understanding of the environment.
All the trees are free. Landowners can attend workshops and are also referred to Conservation Services of the GRCA and other conservation authorities if they need advice on where and how to plant trees.
Green Legacy is funded by local governments.
“It is an honour for the County’s Green Legacy Program to receive this award from the Grand River Conservation Authority,” said Wellington County Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj. “The GRCA has been an active partner and supported the Green Legacy since the beginning. Strong partnerships are essential to the success of this program.”