Who built that bridge?
The spring equinox has come and gone, but the snow is still above my boot tops in the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC's) Creemore Nature Preserve. Two tree fallers, Ryan and Ryan, and a friend, who happily agrees to volunteer outside, trudge alongside me through the pines.
The recent ice storms in central and eastern Ontario brought havoc to the forests. The combination of snow, ice and gusting winds snapping crowns, busting branches and uprooting trees for miles. In this forest, a big poplar was torn from the ground, its trunk hanging over the main trail, its crown caught up in some cedars 40 feet in the air. It poses a potential danger to visitors, and is our destination today.
Taking care of places and stewarding lands requires spending time in nature. I noticed that poplar while out for a walk a few days ago. As a dear friend and mentor once told me, "You cannot underestimate the significance of bearing witness."
The fallers safely bring down the tree with chain saws, ropes and weights, making the trail safe again. One of them asks, “Who built the bridges spanning the creek?”
“Conservation Volunteers,” I reply.
In this moment, I think of how much my community loves this place. It’s cherished. There is almost always at least one car in the parking area. Observations are shared in the grocery line about sightings of otters by the pond, coyotes above the creek. This shared care and commitment is visible in a series of small imprints throughout the 200-acre (80-hectare) property, including those bridges constructed over a decade ago by Conservation Volunteers.
Volunteers also help keep trails clear and repost signs. Over the last number of years, volunteers have rallied to restore the stream and pond, harvesting and planting dogwood and willow stakes along a naturalized stream bank channel.
There is a saying that Creemore means "big heart" in Gaelic, and there is no place where that sentiment is more evident to me than in this forest.
This is my hometown, but such acts of caring for nature are happening in communities all across Canada. This week we celebrate National Volunteer Week and the people behind so many of those acts of caring.
At NCC, we are grateful for the thousands of Canadians who join our conservation staff to help care for special places from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. Our volunteers tackle invasive species, restore degraded habitats for species at risk, take action to reduce wildlife and human conflict and make fencing improvements to benefit wildlife. Volunteers also help monitor species, such as butterflies and migratory waterfowl, to ensure we have the knowledge we need to understand population trends both at home and abroad.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is in itself a community of volunteers. Our scientific advisory committees and our provincial and national board of directors are made up of volunteers. Volunteers help out with office administration, special event coordination and act as ambassadors for NCC and conservation in general.