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Dec. 6, 2021 | Monday
Local News
Project plants 50 new trees along the heritage trail
NOTL resident Julie Clark was walking her dog on Oct. 13 when she noticed the tree planting gathering on the heritage trail. She grabbed a shovel and started lending a hand, saying she has been devastated by canopy loss in the municipality in recent years. (Evan Saunders)

Julie Clark was out for a walk when she stumbled across a tree-planting project on the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.

So, the Niagara-on-the-Lake resident decided to pick up a spade and lend a hand.

“I didn’t even know it was happening until I was walking my dog," Clark said as she dug a hole.

"I saw there was two trees ready to be planted just behind my house so I figured I might as well help with these."

Clark's home borders the trail where a large group gathered for the planting project last Wednesday near the Charlotte Street entrance.

She moved into her parents' house five years ago. The property adjacent to the trail was their home for more than 30 years.

Clark has always loved the heritage trail but said she isn’t too sure the restoration has been for the best.

“It was like the QEW here on the weekend,” Clark laughed. “For 30 years it’s just been the neighbourhood.”

She was devastated by the tree removal that has taken place in the community in recent years between the Two Sisters Winery development, the Rand Estate and cutting that took place along the heritage trail last year.

“It was like a massacre. So, I’m really happy to see that they are putting in some new trees,” she said.

The trail now has 50 new trees thanks to the project, which was sparked by a corporate donation.

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in co-operation with Niagara College, Forests Ontario and Canopy Growth Corp. planted the trees on a section of the trail south of Charlotte Street.

The project was started by Canopy Growth, which has been a longtime supporter of the heritage trail and donated $40,000 to the initiative in 2020.

“It’s important for us as a company to contribute to the community. It’s about connecting the community, it’s about fitness and encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the trail,” said Sean Webster of Canopy.

Webster said the company has partnered with Forests Ontario on community planting projects. Planting along the heritage trail was originally supposed to happen last spring but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Nearly 20 students from Niagara College’s environment and horticulture program were on hand to assist with the effort.

Trees taken down in the trail last year were mostly ash, which have been victims of the invasive emerald ash borer, said Rick Meloen, chair of the heritage trail committee.

The ash borer has killed millions of trees across Canada, according to the federal government.

Of the 50 trees being planted, 25 were red oaks grown from seeds gathered in Chautauqua and grown at Niagara College. The others were a mix of hackberry trees and tulip trees.

The trees will benefit the canopy in the area but also serve to enhance the health of the forest along the trail, said Elizabeth Celanowicz, chief operating officer of Forests Ontario.

“We’re planting native trees, which is fantastic. There are a lot of invasive species here. Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s good,” she said.

Celanowicz pointed out the number of walnut trees in the area, which actually release chemicals in their seeds that kill other plants and trees trying to grow around them.

The red oaks will create more space for other plants and trees to thrive around them, she said.

Celanowicz also noted the benefit of planting the hackberry tree, which produces berries and feeds local wildlife.

“It’s great to have a tree that has multiple benefits for the area,” she said.

For the college’s students in the nursery program, helping plant in their communities is why they enrolled.

“You want to get involved, you want to give back,” student Alexis Kelsey said as she planted a red oak.

Kelsey discovered her love of planting and horticulture when she was in high school.

“I just really enjoyed it when I was in high school. I took our horticulture program there and so I thought it would be nice to pursue it.”

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