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Arbour Day to focus on Emerald Forest

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It may not look like much now, but by noon on Saturday, municipal landscape supervisor Paul Beswetherick hopes that most of the north gravel pit in the Emerald Forest will be well on its way back to its former glory.

Last year municipal crews spread several truckloads of biosolids from the sewage treatment plant on the site. Other biological materials from municipal landscaping crews have been added to the mix, and logs have been strategically placed to retain water and provide shelter. Crews have also contoured the area to remove the steep slopes.

"It’s looking great," says Beswetherick of the site. "All of the plant material is ready to be planted, so we’re hoping for a pretty good turnout. There’s been some major changes to the area, and we hope everyone will like what we’ve done and come around to see it when it’s a forest again."

Last year a volunteer group of almost 70 people took part in Arbour Day activities around the Emerald Forest, blocking off trails that were braided off the main trails and planting vegetation in areas that have seen a lot of human activity. The municipality had hoped to plant the gravel pit, but they didn’t receive approval to spread the biosolids from the sewage plant until the last minute, and decided to let it settle for a year before beginning to replant the area.

The biosolids have been treated at the treatment plant, all toxins removed, and set aside for three years. They no longer have any odour.

This year Beswetherick is hoping to have a turnout of between 80 and 100 people to help plant the area. "We’re putting all native plants in the area, the whole natural approach," he says.

Among the species being planted are Rocky Mountain maples, spruce, pine, Douglas firs, birch and alder. The crews will also plant native shrubs and grasses, such as huckleberry bushes, to protect the trees until they are older.

The area covers about a hectare, although one side of the project will be left unfinished to make way for a new water pipeline down to the Tapley’s Farm area.

Support for Whistler’s Arbour Day comes from the Ministry of Forests, Western Forest Products, Tree Canada Foundation, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, local business and community groups.

To help replant the Emerald Forest, park on Alta Lake Road by the north gravel pit and walk in. Materials will be provided, but volunteers are asked to bring tools such as gardening shovels and tree planting shovels. The planting starts at 9 a.m. and will run until noon.

Meanwhile, the Whistler Rotary Club and Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group will spend their Arbour Day on Whistler Creek behind the Beaver Flats development planting trees and shrubs to build up the riparian area beside the river.

In Village Square, there will also be an Arbour Day tent with displays on tree pruning and planting advice. The fire department will also be on hand to educate people about laddering, which occurs when a tree is too close to a house and presents a fire risk.

Following these Arbour activities there will be a post-plant barbecue at 1 p.m. with Whistler Outdoor Experience Co. at Edgewater. Free access will be provided to canoes and other paddlecraft.

Participants are asked to bring their own cups to cut down on waste from the barbecue.

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