Tree Canada brought together volunteers and residents of Hammonds Plains, N.S., on Friday to plant 550 trees in the burn scars of the Highland Park neighbourhood, in an effort to replenish land devastated by this year’s wildfire.
“Words are so hard to find to explain how appreciative this subdivision is,” said Marion Gillespie, a resident of Highland Park.
“It’s building some morale, and just making people aware that even though such a tragedy hit our subdivision, we all get through it.”
Gillespie was one many volunteers who came out to the Timberlane trail in Highland Park to help plant the new trees intended to bring back biodiversity to the area.
But according to her, the vegetation wasn’t the only thing being restored.
“There’s some areas where a neighbour will look out their house and see burnt trees that haven’t been cut down,” she said.
“Then to come in and see it being cut down… and then mulched the way it has been, for them to be able to see new growth, it gives them hope, too.”
Among the volunteers who joined in the planting effort were 25 Nova Scotia Power employees, who were there to take part in Tree Canada’s ‘Partners in Planting’ team-building exercise.
“I think it’s just great to come here and do something positive,” said Elroy Yee, a Nova Scotia Power employee. “Let people know that we’re still thinking about them and try to rebuild.”
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According to Bruce Carter, Nova Scotia’s forestry specialist for Tree Canada, this rebuilding process will take a few years, but every tree is a step in the right direction.
Tree Canada’s plan for the four-acre plot of land that surrounds the Timberlane trail, includes following the FireSmart Program — a national initiative aimed at mitigating the vulnerability of homes to wildfires.
Carter says they plan to plant hardwood trees — in this case, sugar maples — around the edge of the block, due to their slower burn rates.
“And as you come in, it will be the pine and the spruce, with the idea being that if there was a fire, the rate of spread would be less in the hardwood, near the edge.”
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Carter says this thoughtful planting aims to decrease the speed at which wildfires travel, while increasing the time communities have to respond.
“As we expand, and our subdivisions get pushed out more in the forested area, it’s encroachment that we’re going to see a lot more of,” Carter said.
“FireSmart is going to have to be a main community program that people follow.”
For residents like Gillespie, smart tree planting will not only bring hope back into the community but help to increase feelings of security when wildfire season returns.
“You’re kind of numb about it all, and for those of us whose homes are still standing, you kind of have a survivor’s guilt,” she said.
“So, to see planting like this taking place, it’s removing a lot of the sadness and the anxieties that we see walking through.”
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