Picture showing the small trees growing in their cups.

My 50 trees challenge

Today’s post comes from Sheila Wiebe, a Marketing and Development Specialist at Bronte Creek Provincial Park.

I recently celebrated the halfway point in my life. The milestone of 50 years on this Earth, half a century.

As I usually do around my birthday I reflected on the past year: the accomplishments, the challenges, and everything in between.

I felt like I needed to do something to commemorate the occasion.

The challenge

Sheila and her daughter completing the 50 km canoe trip.

As the date neared I decided to have fun with the approaching “doomsday.” Turning a frown upside down, if you will.  I developed a series of daily challenges for the 50 days leading up to my actual birth date.

I completed tasks like donate 50 things to charity, try a new recipe, visit somewhere new, paddle 50 km on a backcountry canoe trip, and finally, plant 50 trees. These trees and their story is what I would like to share with you.

The reason

Image showing the damage these invasive species cause. Several fallen trees and stands with the crown snapped off.

The forests here at Bronte Creek Provincial Park have gone through considerable changes in the past 7 years. First, it was the Gypsy Moth that defoliated host trees, followed by the Emerald Ash Borer that ate the trees, and then the Beech Blight that sucked all the sap.

Being a public park, these damaged trees posed a safety hazard and those next to campsites, trails and picnic shelters needed to be removed.

Ialong with other chainsaw certified park staff worked to cut down these hazardous trees.  The Trillium, Maiden’s Blush, and Halfmoon Valley trails looked like a big game of pick up sticks when we were finished.

Photo showing forest floor slowly coming back after recent tree cutting.

As per our vegetation management plan, the downed wood is left in the area where it falls to decompose and add its nutrients back into the soil and provide food and habitat to wildlife.

To many visitors, these locations now look horrible. However over time the seedlings that are trying to grow beneath these fallen trees can now enjoy the sunlight they so desperately need to grow.

If you have visited the trails recently, you will see how after a few years the young trees are growing in between the logs, where the deer and rabbits have a harder time getting to them.

The opportunity

As it just so happens, around this time, our park managers saw an opportunity they just couldn’t pass up. They found and arranged for 400 seed kits to be delivered to the park.

Picture showing the small trees growing in their cups.

The maintenance department offered to set up and took care of 350 white pine seedlings. You guessed it, I took care of the other 50 myself.

Now if you have ever planted these seed kits before you will know that there are usually more than one seed per packet. We wanted to make the most of this opportunity. We had opened each one up and planted one seed per holder, using small cups in place of the peat pots in the kits for the extra seeds. In the end we created approximately 600 – 700 little cups of possibility.

Sheila, staff, and volunteers posing in front of recently re-potted trees.
How much time do you think re-potting 500 trees took?

We took care of these “seed cups” over the winter and have recently re-potted 500 or so, 3-inch tall white pines, and moved them outdoors. We still plan to care for them a little while longer. This will give them a good head start so that maybe they will become the forest of tomorrow.

I can look back at my 50th birthday year now and know that my 50 day challenge helped to make the world just a bit greener.

My challenge to you

Can you complete the following 5 actions before your next big birthday?

  1. Volunteer for an event or project.
  2. Become a “Friends of” member.
  3. Donate to projects to help enhance Ontario Parks.
  4. Introduce a friend to the wonders of parks!
  5. Participate in a park clean up.