Urban Forestry Benefits
Thousands of trees planted at Charlottetown’s new well field site in Miltonvale Park are creating an environment for wildlife, an extra water source for residents and an educational tool for young students.
The presence of nesting bald eagles, snowshoe hares and more than 40 different species of birds is evidence that this site in Miltonvale Park is more than just a new source of water. On the outskirts of Charlottetown lies 206 acres of land the municipal corporation purchased in order to develop a second source of water.
Five wells are being developed in Miltonvale Park to help ease the strain on the the Winter River-Tracadie Bay Watershed which, at the moment, is the only source of water for the capital city. The site consists of several abandoned farm fields, a section of woodland, two streams and a pond.
Last year, ecological management of the site began in the form of a reforestation project. The project will help to increase biodiversity, improve water quality and create an overall healthy ecosystem. With the help of Tree Canada’s TD Green Streets program, the City of Charlottetown and provincial government were able to start planting trees at the site.
“We’ve planted in the last couple of years close to 10,000 trees,” said Beth Hoar, parkland conservationist with the city.
The public has helped plant trees and even students at Queen Charlotte Intermediate School have shown up to help.
A small holding bed was created and will provide a source of native trees for this and other city reforestation projects as well as trees for natural areas in city parks.
Reforestation continued this year. An assessment of the 2012 plantings determined that most of the species had survival rates above 90 per cent.
“(Trees) stop erosion and they clean pollutants from the air and water so (reforestation) is really important as far as the water quality is concerned. We also want to increase for environmental reasons biodiversity on the site and provide better wildlife habitat and food,” Hoar said.
The site includes such bird species as bobolinks and barn swallows, both of which have been listed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
“I think having forests and wildlands within our urban areas is important. We do have urban wildlife populations so we’re creating habitat for them.”
Patches of large hardwoods were spread throughout a field of softwood saplings that had been planted previously by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Reforestation of a field just north of this area began by planting a mixture of hardwoods, softwoods and shrubs of varying sizes.
Gaps in the hedgerows were filled with smaller trees and shrubs such as common apple, hawthorn and beaked hazelnut. Efforts to eliminate any invasive species on the property continued with the removal of glossy buckthorn, purple loosestrife and a common ornamental called autumn joy. The holding bed was also maintained throughout this past summer with weeding, mulching, pruning and watering activities.
Jason MacEachern, a graduate of Holland College’s wildlife conservation technology program, said it’s amazing to see how ecologically rich the site has become, especially considering the urban setting.
“Even when you’re out on the site there you’d never tell that you’re in an urban environment,” said MacEachern, who has been involved in the project all along.
Ramona Doyle, project officer with the city’s Water and Sewer Utility, said the site would also serve an educational component.
“We’ve taken students out there and we can show them where the (new) well field will be. I think connecting kids with the water source is very important,” Doyle said.
As for planting trees, Doyle says it’s a great awareness piece to water protection.
“The trees are very valuable in terms of maintaining water quality which is a major concern of ours; making sure the ground retains the water and filters the water.”
Water isn’t expected to flow from the Miltonvale Park site into Charlottetown homes until 2016 but the site is already proving to pay dividends for the environment.