George Finnigan, a 40 year veteran activist with the 12th Stratford Scouting group, was once again getting his hands dirty on May 7th at the annual Scoutrees tree planting event.
George is a retired arborist, trained at the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, and since 1972 has lived in Stratford. Over those more than four decades, he has overseen, along with other Scouting colleagues, the planting of up to 3,000 trees each year in our area.
Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Rovers have planted trees at camps, in parks, on private farms, conservation areas and around the city of Stratford since 1972 when the Scoutrees program started. George says that two of his great joys have been to see former Cubs, Beavers and Scouts return with their own kids on planting day, and also to see the trees mature.
Above: Garrett McKee and his dad next to a row of newly planted saplings at the Scoutree planting on May 6th. (Photos: Anne Carbert)
George Finnigan (left) and Bert Clifford
You can see the trees in all sorts of local locations – around Spruce Lodge, the Upper Thames Conservation Area, St. John’s Woods, Loreena McKennitt’s farm, near the airport and in city parks.
In the past few years, the kids have planted native trees – ninebark, sycamore, spruce, cedar, and sumac saplings that are provided by the City of Stratford, with a survival rate of 70 – 80 %.
They added another 375 saplings just last week of seven varieties: white pine, white spruce, sugar maple, black cherry, white cedar, swamp white oak and dogwood. And by doing this, the children and youth learn about the important role that trees have in our lives, the critical need for conservation, and the impact of climate change.
With his shovel in hand at the Stratford Retention Ponds off Lorne Avenue Tuesday evening, Alex Chiles said he’s been planting annually with the Cubs since he was 5 years old. Now 11, he says the annual planting event is “really important because trees help the environment combat climate change and without trees we’d all be dying.”
And Alex is right about the benefits of trees: they are planted to trap and store carbon, reduce soil erosion, provide plant and animal habitats, beautify parks and provide shade.