Volunteers come through for Arbor Day 

Whistler’s annual Arbor Day celebrations were a huge success...

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Whistler’s annual Arbor Day celebrations were a huge success with almost 50 volunteers turning out to help AWARE, the Whistler Naturalists and the RMOW plant trees and bushes at the site of the north gravel pit in the Emerald Forest.

The Whistler Rotary Club was also successful in its work planting around the River of Golden Dreams. And a booth at Nesters Market handed out more than 2,000 seedlings to locals.

But nowhere was the work more evident than the site of the north gravel pit, where thousands of small cones mark where new trees were planted. The cones are necessary to protect the seedlings from the sharp teeth of the local vole population, and to keep the seedlings from drying out if Whistler has another hot, dry summer.

"The effect of our efforts is really quite funny, because the landscape is just dotted with these little cone heads," said Paul Beswetherick, the Arbor Day co-ordinator and the head horticulturist for the RMOW.

"They act like little greenhouses which will help to stop the plants from drying out, and hopefully they will provide protection from the voles as well. They may be able to dig under the cones, but it’s definitely a lot more work for them so hopefully they’ll find something else to nibble on over the winter."

The voles travel under the snow during the winter and had eaten away at the base of the seedlings. That killed off several of the trees that were planted last year, which were already in poor shape after one of the hottest and driest summers in recent history.

The RMOW is also considering dropping some diversionary food like sunflower seeds around the site before the winter to keep the voles away from the trees. The trick is to drop enough to keep the voles fed, but not enough to contribute to any kind of population explosion.

The cones may be able to be removed after a year, but they could be there for as long as three years as the trees become established.

Beswetherick was impressed by the level of support from the community, and by the number of families willing to give up a Saturday morning to plant trees.

"It was really all ages from within the community that came out, and we also had a few people from the city, from places like Richmond, which we were grateful for," he said.

Although the majority of last year’s plantings didn’t take, Beswetherick believes the extra year has helped the soil to settle even more and described the conditions as ideal for the sight.

"It’s still a really open area, it’s south facing and it’s on a slope so we lose a lot of the water, but it’s in as good a shape as it can be given those circumstances. We’ll be watching closely."

This year volunteers planted 2,400 plants and trees at the Emerald Forest site, emphasizing the species that seem to be doing better in the surroundings.

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