FFPLTC and District Stewards team up for tree ‘library’

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Thanks to a partnership between the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre (FFPLTC) and the Rainy River District Stewardship (RRDS), in a few years’ time residents of Fort Frances may have a spectacular outdoor area to enjoy and learn about local tree species.

Work began yesterday on planting 20 young trees in the green area behind the library, next to Second Street. The trees being planted are all unique species that are native to our region, and make up part of what RRDS vice-chair Tony Elders calls our urban forest.

While planting the trees only got underway this week, Elders said the plan has been in the works for a few years, and was helped along by a grant for another annual project the organization administers.

“We have a couple of different projects, but we just completed our community tree planting program, which the library facilitated again,” Elders said.

“We solicit trees out front. We bring in about 10,000 trees for people to plant, and then we make them [available] at cost, just a little over what we pay for them. We also get a grant from Forest Ontario for that, which is awesome. We got a little bit of money left over for that so I said to Joan [MacLean, FFPLTC CEO] ‘You’ve got a big space here, why not plant some trees?’ and she said Okay. So that started, seems like three years ago. We had to go through quite a few different approvals.”

After receiving those approvals from the FFPLTC board, the Town and administration, and checking in to make sure no infrastructure would be damaged once shovels hit the ground the project was allowed to proceed with the planting of the young trees. Elders likened it to a library of trees, where just like you can browse different books inside the library building, individuals can then go outside and browse some of the different varieties of trees that are indigenous to the area, all located in one convenient spot.

There’s also the potential for educators to make use of the area in the future, with Elders noting he’d be happy to see teachers bring their classes to the yard so that students can learn about and experience the differences between different tree species.

Elders noted it was difficult to find commercial nurseries that carried the assortment of trees they were after for the space, having to eventually purchase the trees from three different businesses.

Once the trees are planted, library staff will water them once a week during their critical first summer, and Elders says there are some deer control measures they can put in place to give the trees the best possible chance of surviving long-term.

A young bur oak tree is carefully set and watered in its new home behind the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre. Twenty local tree species were chosen to be planted to provide shade and education opportunities in the future. –Ken Kellar photo

“It’s a community effort and I’ll help out however I can,” Elders said.

“I can certainly come out and do some deer protection on the terminal buds in the fall when the deers’ diets are changing.”

The terminal bud, Elders explained, is the bud on a tree that grows at the tip of a tree shoot and causes the shoot to grow longer. These buds are then the foundation of the next phase of the tree’s growth, and thus having them eaten by hungry deer can severely impact the young tree. Elders said simple things like tying a fluttering piece of paper or plastic bag near the bud can sometimes be enough to discourage the deer from eating the terminal bud itself.

“It’s always a crapshoot,” Elders said.

“Some trees might make it, some won’t. There was an elm growing nearby that just died after 15 years. We’re going to see how this goes.”

Trees are critically important to life on earth, and have become even more essential as the impacts of climate change are being more keenly felt around the world and close to home. Elders stressed that the environmental impacts trees can have should not be dismissed, noting that as much as he has had a livelihood thanks to trees, they can do so much more.

“I’m a woodworker,” he explained.

“I like the beauty of wood. I like the practicality of wood. Who has a house that has no wood? and that’s not talking about all the good environmental effects. I’m hoping this is a 300-year project. When these trees are big this area will be shady. It will be five degrees cooler here than it is over there. These trees will suck up dust, they’ll provide habitats for squirrels and other wildlife, once we get them past the deer. Trees also suck up a tremendous amount of groundwater. When you have natural events like a flood and that much rain and the stormwater system gets overflowed, it doesn’t go through the sewage plant, it goes to the river if they reach capacity, so the more trees we have, the less of that we have.”

MacLean said she’s happy to expand what the library can do in the community, and is hopeful the new treed area will be a benefit to those at the library and beyond.

“My interest in the project was improving the library grounds for patrons and for staff,” she said.

“Why not have a nice shady place to come out and enjoy your lunch? We are a number of years away from that happening with the trees, but this will improve the grounds and attract more people to the library grounds. It won’t just be going in, getting your books and then off you go, this will help make it more of a destination.”