Volunteers like Shelley help make Wellington County a tree-friendly place

Shelley McElroy’s passion for the outdoors led her to become a Tree Inventory volunteer and part of a call to protect and care for trees in Wellington County. Run by Neighbourwoods, part of the Elora Environment Centre, Tree Inventory aims to help communities better understand trees in their urban landscape and how to take care of them through data provided by volunteers.  Volunteers gather details of 31 characteristics about trees, including width, height, carbon storage, pollution removal and structural value. 

“To be able to do that little, tiny step in the process, it makes you feel valuable,” McElroy said about helping to gather this data for the community.

Prior to being a volunteer, McElroy was a care coordinator for Home and Community Care Support Services Waterloo Wellington for 16 years. After retiring, it wasn’t long before McElroy heard about the volunteer opportunity at Neighbourwoods and decided to go for it. “I’ve switched the type of health assessments that I do,” she jokes.

Since joining the Tree Inventory, McElroy and her volunteer team has assessed public trees in Elora, Fergus and Salem from June to July. For eight weeks, volunteers spend two hours a week looking up at different trees to determine their health, pruning needs and which native species are surviving.  “We moved pretty quick, I was with two experienced workers,” said McElroy about learning from veteran volunteers. “They were great.” McElroy notes learning lots of things in her role about trees, including that weed whacking is a major cause of tree loss. “People weed whacking, continuous at the base (of a tree)” she said. “No one talks about that.”

“It’s all these little things that you learn. You never look at a tree the same way again.” McElroy said she also learned how to be present through assessing trees. vent bugs and debris from getting in their face. Sometimes, volunteers can also move slowly in their assessments, depending on the number of trees in their designated area.

“Stop and take more notice. Just to simply stop and look at a tree, to really look at it.”

“We might not have covered as much ground, but it was labour intensive,” said McElroy. Despite these things, McElroy is excited to return to the role this year. “It’s fun and it’s simply good for me,” she said about her volunteer experience. “I get to be outside.” She mentions it gives her hope to see other residents like her who are passionate about the outdoors volunteering with Tree Inventory. Their work also attracts the attention of residents, further raising awareness about public trees.

“The community connection is life-giving,” she said. “Sometimes, people come out of their house and want to know what you’re doing.” ype of legacy she wants to leave behind.  “The longer you live you start to look at your footprint,” said McElroy. “The legacy you leave, a good one.”

Residents who would like to learn more about the Tree Inventory program can go to eloraenvironmentcentre.ca.

Elora-Fergus Today: written by Ariel Deutschmann

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