As seen in the New Hamburg Independent.

Wheelbarrows squeaked, holes were dug and neighbours of all ages chatted behind masks as they worked together to plant trees in William Scott Park on Saturday.

It was the first tree-planting event hosted by the group Let’s Tree Wilmot, formerly known as Let’s Turn Wilmot Green with Trees. Together volunteers planted 100 trees.

The group has a goal of increasing Wilmot Township’s tree canopy coverage by thousands more trees.

“People love tree planting. I thought there’d be lots of interest, but it’s been bigger than I thought,” says Marlene Knezevich, a founder of the group.

“I’m so happy that we got this off the ground.”

The township provided the space for the trees in William Scott park near the boat launch — a portion of the park that is in the Nith River floodplain. Next year the group will continue to plant further into the park, according to Knezevich. She says this year’s planting site will no longer be mowed and it will become naturalized.

“We wanted a place that a lot of people come to. This is heavily used and with the dock here, people can see it.”

The trees planted included typical species like sugar maple, burr oak and spruce as well as some more unusual Carolinian species like butternut, tulip, paw paw and cucumber tree. The group had guidance on which species to plant, and where, from the Grand River Conservation Authority as well as their own in-house expertise.

Tree leaders with planting experience worked alongside inexperienced volunteers.

The group will also care for, water and prune the trees as they grow, says Knezevich.

Let’s Tree Wilmot is a collaboration of the Wilmot Horticultural Society, the Nith Valley EcoBoosters and Rotary Wilmot.

The group’s first public meeting took place mid-March where nearly 40 people showed up to get involved in the initiative. Knezevich admires how the community has rallied around the cause of planting trees, even throughout the pandemic.

Funds were raised in the community and also donated by the Wilmot Rotary Club and the Wilmot Horticultural Society. All together Knezevich estimates about $3,300 was raised, along with 50 trees donated by Wilmot Township to get the project off the ground.

The group plans to work with businesses, landowners, farmers and the township to find more land to plant including waterways and floodplains, marginal land not fit for agriculture and any other land people wish to offer. They also intend to apply for grants.

Knezevich is looking forward to seeing what else the group will do now that the first tree planting event has taken place.

“We just want to get our roots in. We want to get into the ground and get our roots started, so that’s what happened today.”

Knezevich said trees bring many benefits. They capture and moderate run-off and rainwater, and provide habitat and food for animals, birds and insects.

The trees planted on Saturday won’t give those benefits for at least a couple of decades.

“We’re planning for the future,” says Knezevich. “I’ll be just turning up to 90 in 20 years to come see this.”

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