Oh Christmas tree
Volunteer Susanne Arnold cutting down a blue spruce tree during CV event (Photo by NCC)
Twas right before Christmas, and snowflakes were glittering,
Mule deer were seen prancing, snow buntings were flittering.
The volunteers came despite frigid airs,
In hopes that a Christmas tree soon would be theirs.
On the morning of December 8, Alberta was steadfast in the middle of a deep freeze. The mercury climbed to -21 degrees Celcius at one point, but hovered slightly lower than that for the better part of the day.
Despite the chill, 11 hardy Conservation Volunteers joined two staff members at the Haynes Conservation property near Pine Lake for the Region’s first-ever Christmas tree harvest. With fair warning to volunteers to dress appropriately if they were still intending on coming, it was all systems go.
When NCC acquired the Haynes property in 2011, it also inherited a tree farm full of white and blue spruce. While white spruce is indigenous to the area, the Colorado blue spruce is not; in fact, nowhere in Canada is this tree native.
Over the course of the day, volunteers and NCC staff members identified, tagged and removed a number of non-native blue spruce trees from the property. Volunteers were promised their first pick of a Christmas tree, if they were interested, while the remaining cut trees were given away at a community event over the weekend.
“Tree farms are easiest to manage when the trees are planted in rows of uniform age and size,” said Alia Snively, NCC’s natural area manager for central Alberta. “While operationally practical, this is far from what you would find in a forest and why NCC is working on restoring this area to a more native and natural state.”
Within two hours, the volunteers had cut and wrapped more than 50 blue spruce, ranging in height from four feet to seven feet. By mid-afternoon, it was time to thaw the toes and hit the road (with trees in tow).
Zoë Arnold, conservation volunteers assistant with NCC, regarded it as one of her favourite Conservation Volunteers event. “Despite the cold, volunteers showed up with smiles on their faces and ready to work. I think volunteers really enjoyed this event because it was something different than we’ve ever done before. What made it extra special were all the pictures volunteers sent me of their decorated trees!”
The following Saturday, December 10, NCC held a community open house at the Underwood property. Community members were invited to join in the festive cheer and pick up a blue spruce to take home for the holidays.
There were 70 neighbours, donors, volunteers, partners and landowners who showed up over the course of the afternoon to enjoy a hot apple cider, wreath making and conversation around the fire.
“I am continually blown away by the dedication of our volunteers who are so hardworking and always ready to lend a hand with whatever task we might have. Their persistence, despite an unpleasant weather forecast, allowed us to host our first-ever holiday open house at the Underwood property” said Snively. "We had hoped that this event would allow us to further engage with the community, meet new people and give away some trees. This event is one of the highlights of my time with NCC, and I look forward to meeting more people next year and continuing this festive tradition.”
The Conservation Volunteer team is now tucking in for the holidays, hanging up their stockings making a list (of 2017 CV projects) and checking it twice.
Stay tuned for the release of the 2017 calendar of volunteer events in April!
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Volunteers at Haynes event (Photo by NCC)
Blue spruce trees at Haynes property (Photo by NCC)
Volunteer David Carey at Haynes event (Photo by NCC)
Volunteers wrapping a tree at Haynes event (Photo by NCC)
Group of volunteers at Haynes event (Photo by NCC)
Volunteer David Carey at taking a tree home (Photo by NCC)
Christmas tree (Photo courtesy Leslie Nicholls)
Christmas tree (Photo courtesy Alia Snively)