Regional Chair Jim Bradley and Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson plant ceremonial spades in the turf to symbolize the local tree planting program at Decew. DON RICKERS

Some 7400 seedlings planted at Decew Water Treatment Plant

An environmentally friendly ceremony took place last Tuesday at Niagara Region’s Decew Falls Water Treatment Plant, in Thorold, where it was announced that approximately 7400 native tree seedlings were in the process of being planted on the Decew grounds, in partnership with Land Care Niagara, a non-profit, land resource management group. The project is part of the Region’s “greening initiative,” to increase vegetative cover across Niagara in support of ecosystem health, as well as its new climate change work program, a component of the Region’s master plan in the works.

The planting site is located beside the Bruce Trail and Laura Secord Legacy Trail, and will enhance forest cover along the Niagara Escarpment.

Regional Council Chair Jim Bradley, and Pelham Regional Councillor Diana Huson (who chairs the Region’s Planning and Development Committee) posed with seedlings and spades, and then viewed one of the fields at Decew where the trees had been planted.

Funding was provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, after strategic analysis identified the Decew Falls site as a highly suitable area to increase forest canopy in the Twelve Mile Creek watershed.

Barry Porter, Stewardship Director with Land Care Niagara, said the seedlings were a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees: red maple, red oak, white pine, white spruce, white cedar, and silver maple.

Bradley heaped praise on Huson for spearheading the initiative, but she in turn shone the spotlight on Regional staff.

“I came across a news article on social media that was promoting renewal of the 50 Million Tree Program [operated by Forests Ontario], and simply sent a note to our planning department to say, ‘Hey, is this something we can take advantage of?’” Huson recalled. “We’ve been talking a lot on council about how to implement greening initiatives. But I can only take credit for sending an email. Erik was the catalyst.”

We’ve been talking a lot on council about how to implement greening initiatives. But I can only take credit for sending an email. Erik was the catalyst.

The Erik being referenced was Erik Acs, the manager of community planning for the Region.

“We reached out to Land Care Niagara, through the Forest Ontario program,” said Acs, “and they identified Decew as a site that was within the upper Twelve Mile Creek watershed that could provide maximum benefit through tree planting. We ended up with a ten-acre field that was an opportune site for planting, that checked all the right boxes. We’re already talking about other regional sites where we’ve got potential to do something similar,” he said.

“If you were to canvass people throughout Niagara, they would prefer to see a larger tree canopy,” said Bradley. “We’re right next to the Niagara Escarpment and the Bruce Trail, which are gems, and when you can add even further tree plantings, it’s very valuable. When you hear deliberations anywhere with elected people, there’s a lot of talk about greening, climate change, and environmental issue—and this a project that actually does something.”

Bradley emphasized the importance of conservation authorities across the province, which have been in the forefront of environmental issues of this kind.

“If you look around where development takes place, trees are almost always the casualties. And when we can enhance the number of trees that are out there, that’s a real positive for us.”

“There’s a renewed appreciation for green spaces,” said Huson. “Parks are experiencing record numbers in terms of people being outside, and the pandemic has really shown how valuable it is for our health and well-being, and frankly, for the Niagara brand. I’m really proud of staff for taking the initiative and running with it.”

A greater emphasis these days is placed on trees being the lungs of the earth, said Bradley.

“Whenever you hear stories of somebody bulldozing trees down, without permission, there’s a great outcry in the community, not just among the environmentalists, but from the general public as well.”

On a local note, Huson pointed out that the Pelham Art Festival committee donated 40 trees to the program.

“The art festival had an environmental theme this year, and I just think it’s nice that you know that they were part of the project,” she said.