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Neighbourwoods encourages greener Centre Wellington neighbourhoods

A community-based tree inventory, monitoring, and stewardship planning program, Neighbourwoods is designed to help community groups and volunteers to promote forest stewardship
Volunteers prepare for a food forest, an alternative way of gardening and producing food, modelled on the natural structure of a forest.

Neighbourwoods works with neighbourhoods to create greener and more sustainable urban communities.

A community-based tree inventory, monitoring and stewardship planning program, Neighbourwoods, based in Elora, is designed to help community groups and volunteers conduct an inventory of their urban forest and to promote forest stewardship.

The organization offers communities the opportunity to be active, interact with others and learn all about the trees.

Neighbourwoods member Carole Pines says the organization runs a variety of volunteer projects including tree planting, citizen pruning, removal of invasives and public presentations on tree-related topics, as well as tree walks and tree talks programs.

“The mandate is to educate the public on the value and role of trees in the health of our environment, and to advocate for the care and preservation of trees in our urban landscape,” Pines said.

“This is for everybody’s benefit because it really does take ‘everybody.' It takes every little effort to want to look after trees. Planting new trees is good, but taking care of existing trees is also important. They all really count,” Pines said.

Especially when it comes to climate change, Pines says everyone needs to come together to help make a difference.

“Everybody has to make the effort to preserve our environment and to increase the diversity and the tree canopy if we have a hope of cleaning up our environment and making things sustainable as we move on,” Pines said.

“The more people understand about trees and just how phenomenal they are and how much they do for us, that will inspire people to look after them.”

Neighbourwoods was established as the urban forest branch of the Elora Environment Centre.

Since its inception in 1995, the organization's programs have been recognized and applied by many other communities across the province.

The three components of Neighbourwoods are tree inventory, monitoring and mapping procedure and training, tree inventory data analysis and urban forest stewardship, and management planning.

Pines says trees offer many benefits including cleaner air, improved soil, shade and water retention.

“The mental heath benefits are big too. We focus on human health, but also important to remember all of the other creatures that share this earth and who need a healthy environment too. And we keep taking it away from them,” she said.

“We need to preserve what we’ve got and increase it so that we aren’t the only ones left on this planet.”

Pines is also a member of Food Forest Centre Wellington, another project initiated by a small group of volunteers in Elora and Fergus.

She says a great partnership has developed between the two organizations who share very similar goals with the Elora Environment Centre.

“Food Forest Centre Wellington goals are in alignment with Neighbourwoods. They are all about increasing the tree canopy and looking after trees, as well as realizing how valuable it is to have a natural environment,” Pines said.

Food Forest Centre Wellington volunteers are hosting a planting day from 9 a.m. to noon this Sunday, east of the Fergus Sportsplex, next to the community garden plots, beside the tennis courts.

“We are very excited about this. We have visited other communities who have created these types of gardens. We’ve learned and now we are ready to do it ourselves,” Pines said.

“We have already prepared the soil, laid out paths, and started planting fruit shrubs around the existing fruit trees on the Sportsplex site.”

A food forest is an alternative way of gardening and producing food, modelled on the natural structure of a forest. This can include food-producing trees, shrubs, vegetation, root vegetables and vines.

Pines says the food forest is a functioning ecosystem where many different plants work together, and each one has a role to create a sustainable ecosystem.

“We also emphasize native plants as much as we can because they have evolved to thrive and do well in our environment and can look after themselves. Most of these are perennials so they do not need reseeding year after year. They keep growing as years go by, so this is a long multi year project. As the forest matures, it will look after itself," Pines said.

“Our food forest will benefit the community by being a publicly accessible source of food and educate the public about this alternative, eco-friendly method of gardening, about the usefulness of native plants, and provide a beautiful space for people to gather, volunteer, and work together.”

Pines says one of the many advantages of the food forest project is that it can help address the issue of food insecurity.

“As it matures and starts producing food, it becomes a source of fresh fruit and veggies that will be open and available to anyone in the community who wants to come out and harvest,” she said.

"People can either have access to fresh food, who otherwise might not have a budget for fresh food. This garden is open to everyone in the community."

Pines says anyone is invited to attend the planting day.

“We invite interested volunteers to come out that day, to help and to learn more. Throughout the summer, in addition to planting, volunteers can help with ongoing maintenance like weeding, pruning, harvesting, other things like construction and signage, education, and community outreach,” Pines said.

“This is owned by the community, maintained by the community, and its open to the community to take advantage of. This one project will not solve this whole issue, but it’s a step forward in helping to address it.”

For more information about Neighbourwoods, visit here.

For more information about Food Forest Centre Wellington, visit here.