November, 2022: ACER is excited to announce our new initiative in the Ganaraska region funded by the Great Lakes Local Action Fund that kicked off on November 12 at the Sylvan Glen Conservation Area east of Toronto. During this one-year initiative ACER will take the lead working with the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) in the planting and monitoring of trees and removal of invasive species on the banks of creeks within the Ganaraska Watershed. The Ganaraska River flows from the Oak Ridges Moraine through the town of Cobourg on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
ACER’s track record in planting and monitoring trees and their effects on the environment and people was one compelling argument in our successful appeal to this fund. Recognizing that the Great Lakes, holding a fifth of the world’s fresh water, are vital to Ontario’s economy, social well-being, and ecological health, the Ontario government established the Great Lakes Local Action Fund (GLLAF) to support “community-led projects that have a positive environmental impact on the Great Lakes and their connecting rivers.”
This sensitive area, which also includes the municipality of Port Hope, is vulnerable to serious flooding, necessitating the restoration of riparian areas facing continuing erosion and damage due to heavy rainfall and runoff in spring. Climate change is intensifying the problem. Sylvan Glen is the site of a water-level gauging centre to help warn of flood danger to area communities.
ACER’s major local partners are Sustainable Cobourg, responsible for recruitment, coordination and education of area volunteers, and the GRCA, responsible for securing planting locations, planning, and co-hosting planting events. Students of Trent University and Fleming College in Peterborough are assisting with mapping and IT support; City Studios provides marketing, PR, and media expertise. Overseeing all aspects of the project from grant application to final reporting is ACER founding president Alice Casselman. Project Coordinator Sadia Butt is responsible for project implementation. Jonathan Brown is the project’s local liaison.
Planting the actual trees requires a small army of volunteers— area residents, students, community organization members— people who care about the health of their fragile riparian environment. And their work has already begun. At the Sylvan Glen launch session in November, ACER staff collaborated with partners to demonstrate optimal planting, mulching, and measuring procedures for participants working through the two major planting cycles scheduled for April and October 2023. About 150 trees were planted at this event.
The project’s tree list is impressive: eastern white cedar; white and Norway spruce; white pine; tamarack; red, silver, and sugar maples; red, white, and bur oaks; white birch; viburnum; dogwood; and willow. ACER has trained its local partners in measuring and monitoring their growth at regular intervals. Collected data will be entered into the ACER database, and analyzed to determine the success of the trees selected.
Hoped-for project outcomes are reduced erosion of riparian regions; reduced risk of flooding; increased understanding of the role and extent of climate change, and of the role of community-led improvement measures; and greater community participation in restoring and protecting the health of the Great Lakes. Success will be measured by testing turbidity of water samples, updating flood maps for accuracy and availability, assessing citizen involvement in subsequent project activities and webinars, and the ongoing engagement of members of the regional environmental action committee.
Work will resume in the spring, and by the end of October, 900 trees will have been planted and mulched. Ten percent of these will be measured and documented.
ACER staff, Board, and volunteers are happy to have been chosen for this important grant. Alice Casselman says, “We provide a ‘one-stop shop’ from writing the grant application to implementation and reporting. ” She is convinced that ACER’s strength, working “on the ground with people,” training, equipping, and supporting local citizens, in solid, evidence-based scientific planting, care and recording procedures, is the key to success.