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Saanich marks Tree Appreciation Day with mass planting effort in Mount Douglas Park

Nearly 600 new shrubs, trees a ‘significant improvement’ for park, volunteer says

Despite the chilly ocean-side air and sprinkling rain, volunteers bundled in sweaters and gardening gloves planted nearly 600 trees and shrubs in Mount Douglas Park on Saturday morning.

The mass-planting event was held on Nov. 7 to mark the district’s Tree Appreciation Day. Among the volunteers were members of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, Saanich councillors and municipal staff. The masked group practiced social distancing while slinging soil and tucking saplings into the earth from 10 a.m. to noon.

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In a normal year, there may be close to 100 volunteers at a Saanich tree planting event, but due to the pandemic, organizers kept advertising minimal and capped the number of registered volunteers at 30, explained Darrell Wick, president of the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society. He added that all attendees were asked to fill out contact forms for tracing and assigned to a specific planting sector.

The troupe braved the cold and spent two hours planting some 585 plants – many of which were trees donated by the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society, Wick said.

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Over the course of the morning, hundreds of plants made their way into the group including 110 dull Oregon-grape, 20 ocean spray shrubs, 300 sword ferns, 35 western cedars, five bigleaf maples and 10 grand firs, said Rick Hatch, a Saanich Parks employee.

Not only were the volunteers celebrating new plant life in the park, but another focus of the event was “appreciation for the big trees that already exist in the park,” Wick said.

Ahead of the event, Saanich Park staff spread compost topsoil over the planting areas near Mount Douglas Park beach and began installing the fencing that will eventually surround the freshly planted areas.

Wick noted that an airspade was required to turn and loosen the soil in the planting area because it had been trampled by park-users. Compacted earth is “not good for the tree roots” or other plants trying to grow, he explained, adding that visitors are reminded to stay on the marked trails to allow restoration areas to thrive.

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A chip trail and picnic area with log benches are among the upgrades still to come and Hatch expects the work to be completed before the end of November.

“I think people are going to like it,” Wick said. “In my mind, this is a really significant improvement. I’m really happy.”

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