On August 19th, I joined a group that was setting off on a tree-planting mission at Ontario Nature’s Willoughby Nature Reserve, near Caledon. Armed with shovels and enthusiasm, we were determined to plant 220 trees in just five hours.
The forest was beautiful, cool and quiet as we got to work under the guidance of Ontario Nature’s Smera Sukumar and Stephanie Muckle. Leaders from Credit Valley Conservation’s Conservation Youth Corps also lent a hand. Our goals for the day were to reduce erosion near Silver Creek, which flows through the reserve, and to improve the surrounding forest’s overall health. We also wanted to connect our 25 youth participants with the Willoughby Nature Reserve to deepen their love of the natural world.
Prior to becoming a part of Ontario Nature’s system of nature reserves, much of the Willoughby property was cleared and actively farmed. In subsequent years, it was replanted with uniform rows of white, red and Scot’s pine trees. When Ontario Nature acquired the property, its forest had few native trees, and was vulnerable to the harmful effects of invading species. Planting a variety of native trees will help improve the reserve’s overall ecological health and long-term resilience.
Thanks to the enthusiastic hard work of our youth volunteers, we were able to plant all 220 trees in randomized patterns in just three hours. Muddy, sweaty and happy we had accomplished the seemingly impossible.
We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking and clearing the trail, with 25 pairs of feet patting down a path for others to follow in their explorations of this special nature reserve.
Camille Tremblay Beaulieu is an intern at Ontario Nature, a past graduate in Zoology at Laurentian University and a student of Environmental Visual Communication at the Royal Ontario Museum through Fleming College. She is passionate about photography, conservation and travelling.