As seen in The Wilmot-Tavistock Gazette.

The sun is peeping over the horizon and the ground frost sparkles in the early rays of light. I hop in the car and head over to the Mike Schout Wetlands in New Hamburg, only minutes from my home. The last tree planting day of 2021! I do a mental tallying of what was loaded in my SUV. Wheelbarrows (one with American Finch yellow coloured wheel and handlebars, a donation from Home Hardware), spare shovels, tree wraps, wagon, scissors, large water thermos of water, string, and tree ties. I arrive, and Dean Peachey, Let’s Tree Wilmot’s Project Planning Chair, is parked at the gate to the Wetlands and installing the LTW banner. Phil Holst, Conservation Project Lead of WS Wetlands, arrives to open the gates with a squawk and a clang, and in we go. First, we take a moment to savour the quiet, the beauty of the pond, and the amazing weather. No rain! Then the action begins.

Yvonne Zyma, Kathy Loree with Kathy Mostardi set up the registration and refreshment tables. Sandy Jackson, Dir. of Parks, Facilities and Recreational Services, arrives to oversee the operations. The quiet of the morning broke with the roar of motors. Geoff Dubrick, Manager of Parks and Facilities, arrived on a shiny Kubota 4×4 Sport Utility Vehicle followed by Cody Eby, Supervisor of Parks and Facilities, driving the tractor and other township staff. Trees and shrubs are placed on the front end loader and off roars the tractor, with Phil directing the staff to the trees’ new home. The Kubota has a water tank on and our volunteer Louis Silcox had brought his pump to fill the tank with pond water for watering the trees.
The LTW Team Crew arrive next. They teach and guide the volunteers on how to plant the trees. Stephen Yantzi, Kerry Schutten, Mike Yost, Steph Goertz, Martin Hesch, Louis Silcox, Barry Fisher, Larry Peterson, and Lowell Ewert huddle with Dean to determine the flow of tree planting for today. The team is a well-oiled machine now. Trees get planted, followed by a wave of volunteers mulching the trees to keep down weeds and the moisture in, then watering and finished with a tree wrap to protect the trunks from rodent and rabbit damage. This Yvonne did Lindsay, a student volunteer with Nith Valley EcoBoosters with deft hands.

What was planted? One hundred and seventy Red Bud, Chokeberry, Hemlock, Red Maple, Elderberry, Cedar, Nannyberry (Viburnum) and Dogwood native tree varieties that will provide a colourful view for local residents and visitors. These species thrive in this natural environment, and in time, will provide shelter and food for animals and birds.

Sixty two volunteers are planting including our LTW Crew. Stephanie Goertz commented, “It was the toughest ground to dig in but many dedicated hands chipped in. Maybe that a quarter of the volunteers seemed to be under 10 but they seemed to be the hardest working.” Kerry Schutten said, “I had a blast planting with a family of 6 kids who stayed the full 3 hours and were really engaged. Particularly a pair of 5 year old twin boys who named all the trees they planted, including “marshmallow, hot cocoa, and sprinkles.” They live on one of the properties backing onto the wetlands, so the mom was really excited for the kids to be able to see the trees from their yard and watch them grow.” The idea of naming the trees starts at Registration with Yvonne, “I always find kids get very excited when I tell them that it’s their responsibility that their tree(s) get a name. A parent is happy to support this idea, and then there is talk about coming to visit the tree to make sure it’s doing alright and hasn’t been forgotten. I like this part of the registration the best!”

At the 10 am break, Les Armstrong, Mayor, spoke on behalf of the Township, thanking the volunteers for their work and thanking Mike Schout for his vision and initiative. Mike Schout and Phil Holst described what the Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve will look like when completed, including multiple ponds, boardwalks, meadows, and forest areas (4000 seedling trees were planted in the spring). Councillors Barry Fischer, Jenn Pfenning with her family and Whiskey the dog, and Jeff Gerber got their knees dirty. Regrets came from Councillors Angie Hallman, Cheryl Gordijk and MP Tim Louis, who had Remembrance Day ceremonies to attend.

What a perfect day! While wrapping the trees, Yvonne heard geese in the distance, and as she stood near the edge of the pond, she watched a flock of dozens of Canada Geese passing overhead and separating into three separate Vs. She was touched then by her good fortune to be helping plant trees in a natural area so close to her home. I know this will be a more frequent destination in the future for myself and others. New Hamburg is becoming such a walkable community. I can walk to my medical appointments, library, great bakeries, restaurants and groceries and soon, I’ll be able to lose myself in nature at the Wetlands.

I marvel at the scope of the project and what a privilege it is that LTW, a project of Wilmot Horticultural Society, was invited to provide volunteers for this project. Dean, who manages all our planting events, and Phil collaborated on this event. “Tree planting and forestry development is a significant part of evolving the Wetlands Preserve, and a fall planting is ideal to help further naturalize the areas behind the residential homes on Walter Perry Street and Smith’s Creek,” states Phil.

This is a significant community project. The Mike Schout Wetlands Preserve is a 55-acre property owned by the Township along the Nith River in New Hamburg. Township Council is fully supportive of Mike Schout’s vision for this property, which includes improving storm water management and river quality, adding new habitat for birds and aquatic life, and providing recreational and educational opportunities for the community. K-W Hydro has delivered massive poles that will be used to build a Great Blue Heron rookery and an Osprey nesting platform. It will be a birder’s paradise! I urge you to come and look at what it is now and see the evolution over time as the Wetlands mature.

In 2022, there will be the construction of a 2 kilometer network of trails and boardwalks that will provide visitors with a ‘birds-eye-view’ of the multi-year naturalization process where trees, pollinator plants will grow and thrive will commence. Phil plans to invite LTW back to plant 150+trees in the spring.
“As the Township and the Region of Waterloo work towards the goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, this new carbon sink property will help absorb carbon from the atmosphere and offer healthy homes for wild animals, birds, and aquatic animals,” says Director of Parks, Facilities and Recreation Services, Sandy Jackson.

The day had an international flair too. LTW was approached by Andy and Susie Macpherson of the Waterloo School Board to have their international students join in. Dean and Andy sent up a program and I had the honour of accompanying the 32 students. We started off at Scott Park, NH, to put the rodent tree guards on the trees that LTW planted last fall and this spring. We briefly talked about the importance of native trees for sustaining our wildlife, climate change and in flood mitigation. They were really engaged. The Wetlands was the next stop with a tour lead by Phil and a welcome by Mike and Penny Schout. Planting of a few trees completed their tour.

The students, from four high schools, love to meet each other in person and contribute to a great project. Andy and Susie support these students for social events and thought this was great one to be involved with. These students, in Canada for the entire school year, are from China, Vietnam, S. Korea, Ukraine, Iran, Central America, Sudan, and are learning English. This opportunity connects them to the earth, each other, and the wider community outside!

Mike Schout says. “It will take a community to foster and care for this property when it is complete, and with community support, it has the potential to be a destination site for education, recreation and getting back to nature.”

Let’s Tree Wilmot is making plans for events for next year over the coming months. We also have Education, Fundraising and Policy Committees that work to improve the lives of trees and residents of Wilmot. Thank you to our partners Wilmot Township, Nith Valley EcoBoosters and Rotary Wilmot. Special thank yous to Mannheim and New Dundee Optimists, Home Hardware/Tree Canada and all the volunteers who made the tree planting events possible.

There will be a Fall Celebration on Tuesday, November 30th at 7:00 pm with Phil Holst speaking at the Wilmot Recreation Complex. We invite the Wilmot residents to join us and celebrate the successful year as a community who loves their trees. Registration is at https://wilmothortsociety.ca/ltw or email letstreewilmot@gmail for more information. All COVID protocols will be followed.

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