News Gazette staff
Brianne Sleivert’s polka-dotted gumboots are firmly entrenched in a muddy field off Cecil Blogg Drive in Colwood. Next to her, Belmont secondary classmate Emmah Langer, wearing pink-trimmed flower boots, scoops loose dirt away with her hands as Sleivert shovels out a hole. The two are planting one of 500 trees to be added at Colwood Creek Park as part of the city’s Trees for Tomorrow program.
“We like to get involved in community and do what we can,” said Sleivert, 17. “It’s good because it helps our community right by our school.”
Dozens of Belmont students are lined up around them in adjacent dirt patches, where park staff have prepped the area for them to dig, drag, stomp and plant hundreds of Douglas fir, cedar, black cottonwood and alder trees at the park.
The project, designed to help improve the creek habitat and enhance the park, is funded in part by a $20,000 provincial grant and money from the City of Colwood. On the ground it’s receiving help from the Victoria Green Team and local youth and community volunteers.
Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day said the project has been a long time coming.
“It took 25 years of planning to get new trees here,” she said. “But it is one of the most important assets in our municipality, our green spaces. I am (also) so happy to see youth involved in our community, and see a positive way to showcase all they contribute.”
Day said the new trees are welcomed in an area where development once cleared an evergreen old growth forest for a new golf course. When those plans fell through, the top soil was scraped up and sold off to pay off debt.
Langer hopes the students’ efforts can help move the park a step closer to what it once was. “If I revisit this park in the future, I will know I had a part in rebuilding this – I can revisit this with my children in 20 years and know this was our doing,” she said.
“We wanted to help re-establish the environment our community lives in. It’s improving the environment for our school (and) our neighbourhood. We planted 500 trees today and this is great.”