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Leaving a Green Legacy for future generations

Wellington County's Green Legacy Programme involves youth of all ages in the tree growing and planting process as a way of engaging and educating them about the natural environment

For the Green Legacy Programme in Wellington County, tree planting is the act of putting down roots which will contribute to the future, and the people behind the program have plans to make it grow for many years to come.

“We are 100 per cent funded by the County of Wellington and because of this, we are able to provide over 170,000 trees annually to county residents at no cost,” said Alison Morrison community outreach coordinator with the Green Legacy Programme. 

The mission is to raise awareness regarding the value of trees and the environment through education and involvement. This will ultimately lead to an increase in forest cover to a healthy level, creating a green infrastructure which will ensure ongoing environmental benefits.

“We exist with two goals. The first is to increase forest cover and the second is to engage as many people as we can in the growing process. We need that human component,” Morrison says.

According to Green Legacy, key objectives include, educating the community about the value of trees and the natural environment and actively involving the public in the community forest process. This includes the gathering of seed, growing of nursery stock, planting and caring for young trees and providing an ongoing supply of young trees to meet the demand.

In 2004, The Green Legacy Programme began with just a simple idea, to plant 150,000 trees to celebrate the county's 150th anniversary. 

Today, the idea has grown with over two million trees planted in the County of Wellington by community partners, making it the largest municipal tree planting programme in North America.

“We have a about 13,000 volunteers help every year. This includes working with every public and Catholic school in Wellington County,” Morrison said.  

“We have school programs for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3, kids in Grades 4 to 6 work in the nurseries and those in Grades 7-8 will plant trees for landowners. So that’s years of learning horticultural skills. We hope that with these skills will have lifelong impact.” 

The Green Legacy Programme has two nurseries, one located in Puslinch and the other in Damascus in Wellington North.

“We have four full-time staff, a couple seasonal workers and the rest are all volunteers,” Morrison said. 

Along with schools and various other community organizations, corporate volunteer programs are also very popular according to Morrison. The programs offer team building volunteer experiences while working in a relaxed outdoor environment. 

Volunteers young and old work together completing many of the important tasks needed to successfully grow trees including watering, weeding, seeding, and transplanting. 

“It’s winter right now and people might not realize it, but it is a very busy time for us because we are getting the trees ready for April, when they will be planted. We are lucky to be really well supported and we have waiting lists where people want to come and take part,” Morrison says. 

“It's a great way to give back to your community and help the environment.”

Wellington County provides trees free of charge to its residents and community groups.

“An average tree leaves the nursery at about three to five years, so we need a community that supports and advocates for the trees on their property,” Morrison said.

“Communities need to develop their own system and there’s always room for more publicly funded trees.”

The integration of nature in urban environments is becoming a common objective in more and more cities. 

More trees provide more shade, better soil quality, improved mental health, a reduction of air and noise pollution, conservation of water and soil erosion and the creation of wildlife and plant diversity.

According to Morrison with a long-term vision, it’s a program that will pay for itself. 

“About 75 per cent of our trees are coniferous and the rest are evergreen,” she said. 

Trees are planted for different reasons including the suppression of erosion and to relieve stress on crops. 

“As the trees are getting older, farmers, in particular, are really seeing the benefits,” Morrison said. 

The Green Legacy Programme has caught the attention of the United Nations and in 2010, the program was recognized under the UN’s Billion Tree Campaign for their help in the fight against climate change.

The Green Legacy Nursery, in Puslinch (southern nursery) is located next to the County of Wellington's Little Tract Trail. 

It is named in honour of Brad Whitcombe, who served as Warden of the County of Wellington in 2000, 2005 and 2006 and Reeve/Mayor of Puslinch Township from 1994-2010.

The nursery is situated near hiking trails which wind through 200 acres of mature trees. Staff-guided hikes are also offered where anyone is invited to explore the forests, identify different plants and discover local wildlife. 

“I love the people here. The nursery environment is so rich and beautiful,” Morrison said. 

“But it’s also about teaching people, seeing their sense of wonder and knowing that this can carry on for the rest of their lives.”