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I CAN-T.E.R and Sustainable Fort Erie Partner with Ridgeway Sparks and Brownies To Plant Trees As Part Of A Vital Community Project

Christine Whelan, FEO April 28, 2022, VOL. 3 ISSUE 18

I CAN-T.E.R., in partnership with Sustainable Fort Erie and Sassafras Farms, is thrilled to launch Phase One of “The Beaver Creek Restoration Project”.

Efforts will aid in; flood prevention, assist in improving water quality and provide protection for the rare Grass Pickerel and other species at risk.  There is also a focus on raising community awareness of the importance of Beaver Creek and its Provincial and Municipal significance in maintaining clean water, flood management and natural habitats for diverse species and species at risk.

I CAN-T.E.R. Farm is therapy, education and recreation in a farm setting located on 1234 House Road, on the western outskirts of Ridgeway.

A grant of $15,000 was provided through Niagara Community Foundation Environment Grant, funded through the Dorothea Thomas Foundation.

On Wednesday, April 13th, during Earth Week, all parts of the partnership connected for a wonderful evening of fun, community effort, education and some fabulous TLC for our local environment.

Tracey Calder-Rosettani is one of two leaders with the First Ridgeway Sparks and Brownies. “We’re a mixed unit.” She explained the organization, “Sparks are girls ages 5-6. Brownies are girls ages 7-8. We’re all considered Girl Guides, but we are different branches based on age.”

Tracy started to share their beginning experiences with the project. “My co-leader, Jodie Billiers, had this incredible idea a couple of years ago of having the girl’s plant trees. We were working on a particular program area called Take Action. The last few weeks we worked on a theme called Your Choice and Your Voice, trying to teach the girls about issues in the world that really matter right now — giving back, preserving our land, our waters, what we need to survive — not just talking about these issues, but actually taking action and making a difference.

“So, we wanted to plant some trees again. I reached out to Brie with Sustainable Fort Erie. She was doing a project with I CAN-T.E.R. to help restore Beaver Creek.”

A partnership was made and action began. “We purchased 17 one-gallon maple trees, enough for each girl to plant her own.” She added, “I’ve been with the groups going on eight years. I honestly think this is one of the biggest events that we’ve done.”

Valuable Life Lessons Learned

No talk without action — “We are trying to teach the girls that you can’t talk about making changes and think about making changes unless you’re actually willing to make a change,” Tracey explained.

Giving back — “And we’re also trying to teach the girls to give back, and that there are many different ways of giving back.”

The Girl Guide leader shared, “Every year, we do a couple of trail clean-ups with the girls, picking up litter. We do try to give back. This is, by far, the biggest thing we’ve ever done for giving back.

“The community supports us when they buy our cookies. That cookie money comes back towards us to pay for craft supplies, and helps pay for our trips like to the pumpkin farm. The lesson tied to this project is, the community has been very good to us, so we’re giving back by purchasing these trees, using some cookie money, helping to restore this area of Ridgeway and Fort Erie.”

About the Sparks and Brownies

“Our meetings are out of the Italian Hall. Now that the weather is getting better, we do have quite a few things planned for May to get us outside.

“We try hard to get the girls outside. I think COVID caused many groups and businesses to think outside the box. Once we had to think outside the box from meeting indoors all the time, we came up with some pretty cool things to do outside and we’re continuing with that because that’s really what Girl Guides is about, being outside in nature and camping.”

When talking about volunteers, Tracey admitted they are looking for more help. “Sadly, in the last couple of years, we lost a lot of meeting spaces and a lot of our leaders. We are really needing volunteer leaders.”

Tracey concluded, “If anyone wants to connect with Girl Guides, they can search the website Girl Guides of Canada. They will be directed to the Ontario part of the site.”

To look into being a leader, visit the website and click on where it says, ‘I want to become a volunteer.’

Sustainable Fort Erie

Brie Smalldon, a Fort Erie resident, environmentalist, and co-founder of Sustainable Fort Erie, also sits on the Environmental Advisory Committee for the Town of Fort Erie.

Coming from an environmentalist point of view, Smalldon explained the highlights, “Part of what we will be doing with the girls is explaining to them, not just why we are planting trees, but the overall meaning behind why we are doing the restoration work on this creek. They will learn about the significance of a species at risk and why it’s important to protect them.”

The environmentalist talked about a fish species that is at risk, the grass pickerel. These pickerel can be found in Beaver Creek.

“Also, way back in the day when the creeks were straightened out to turn them into a drainage system, a lot of vegetation removal was done as well. So, a lot of these creeks turned drains have become quite toxic. There’s the erosion. I mean, it’s a natural process to a degree, obviously, but all these natural processes are being accelerated at a rapid rate.

“By our re-vegetating along the stream banks, it’ll help filter any run-off… It’ll also help with the stream bank erosion.”

Brie continued, “We’re going to be creating habitat, too. There are turtles, frogs, snakes and other reptiles and amphibians. They need places to live.”

Smalldon stated that all this clearing and cleaning has done a lot of damage. It causes flooding.

“All of the re-creating of a natural system prevents the damaging effects of the dredging and removing of vegetation. The restoration work has a lot to do with the whole system and how everything connects to everything else. It will be educational for the girls. Obviously, we’re not going to get too technical because they are young.”

About Sustainable Fort Erie

Brie Smalldon and Yvonne Hopkins, both of Fort Erie and colleagues with environmental backgrounds, started the community group in January of 2021 with the goals of creating a more sustainable community by building relationships, and offering different learning opportunities and encouraging beneficial projects.

Brie shared, “We started community gardens behind the Salvation Army in Fort Erie. We’ve been trying to find more garden space. We are also always looking for volunteers for any of our projects.

You can find Sustainable Fort Erie on social media. Their website is sustainableforterie.com and to email the group, sustainableforterie@gmail.com.

I CAN-T.E.R. Farm

For over 28 years, I CAN-T.E.R., along with the support of numerous granting streams, community initiatives, volunteers and participants, has practiced conservation and sustainable management of the creeks, wetlands, forests and the grassland on their 87-acre farm. As a Registered Charity, it is a lot to manage.

They are so grateful for the participation of the Ridgeway Sparks and Brownies for their contribution of trees and efforts in getting these trees in the ground so they can do their job, as a part of their program area, Take Action, which allows I CAN-T.E.R. to explore and turn their thoughts and passions into action.

Karen van der Zalm of I CAN-T.E.R. applied for the grant from Niagara Community Foundation.

Karen has a long history with I CAN-T.E.R., taking over as Executive Director in 2015. She is very passionate about all the different facets.

“We’re excited about our partnership with Sustainable Fort Erie and our outreach work. What I CAN-T.E.R. will do moving forward is, through all our therapy, education and recreational programming, promote all of this and raise awareness.

The Girl Guides’ tree-planting is a community outreach portion and educational component of the grant, from Karen’s perspective. “We’ll have several engagements with the Girl Guides. This is the first of several community engagements.”

“We’re also working with Sassafras Farm. They are producers of native species for habitat and environmental restoration.”

More About The Project: Letting the creek do what it’s supposed to do.

“Beaver Creek is one of the major watersheds going through this region and we all, as a community, and as landowners, work together to try and protect these significant waterways.”

A focus of this project is removing blockages from the creek bed to prevent flooding and erosion. Another is to do some re-planting initiatives due to the never ending problems with the dead ash trees.

Karen stated, “We have all these dead trees and we’re not doing anything about it, to re-plant.” She listed some of the top importance of the role of the tree in our ecosystem.

Karen also mentioned that, in the last five years approximately, she has noticed a higher level of flooding.

The goal is to have a management plan that can run and, as Karen stated, let the creek do what it’s supposed to do.

Looking into the future, “We’re going to be opening up environmental farm stays and educational retreats, like eco-camping.”

Karen invites other community members to become excited about what they can do at the farm and for their environmental community, and how they can become involved. “It’s our main theme for our summer camp this year. We also have a wonderful nature centre out back that we’re opening and using for activities.”

You can find these events on their Facebook Page, I CAN-TER

Important Role of Trees

Beaver Creek and Fort Erie have been impacted by the loss of an enormous amount of Ash Trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Dead trees are now falling, causing blockages and interrupting natural water flow. Replanting initiatives are critical to the health of Beaver Creek and other watersheds.

Along with purifying the air and providing shade

  • Trees and forests play an incredible role in reducing flooding from stormwater and removing or filtering pollutants that would otherwise wind up in our waterways.
  • Trees along the creek edge provide a leafy canopy that intercepts rainfall and acts like a sponge to absorb groundwater
  • Tree’s root systems also help to prevent erosion along creek beds and shifting of sediment
  • Trees are natural habitats for an abundance of species and dead trees are also homes for several species

I CAN-T.E.R. and Sustainable Fort Erie gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Niagara Community Foundation, which is a public foundation serving the people of Niagara. The Foundation builds permanently endowed charitable funds for the changing need and opportunities of the community and provides grants to eligible charitable organizations in culture, health, education, environment, recreation and social service sectors.”

Photo provided by Tracey Calder-Rosettani

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