Turning waste into trees 

Arbor day to focus on the rehabilitation of the Emerald Forest

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has moved its annual Arbor Day activities back from Sept. 15 to Sept. 29 to give the provincial government more time to approve an application to dump hundreds of tonnes of biosolids in the north gravel pit (the one closest to Alta Lake Road) of the Emerald Forest.

Throughout the summer, the municipality has been dumping yard and wood waste in the area, and with the approval of the government they plan to dump the inert sludge reclaimed at the sewage treatment plan on the site to build a soil base. The biosolids have already been used at other municipal planting sites with success.

"Part of Bob Brett’s Emerald Forest Management plan has already been implemented, but the approval process has slowed us to a crawl," says Paul Beswetherick, landscape supervisor for the RMOW. The municipality has hired Sylvis Environmental to assist with the application.

"We had hoped to have the biosolids amended and incorporated with grading changes and large woody debris installed before September so that we could go ahead with our Arbor Day in the gravel pit, using volunteer labour to plant," Beswetherick says.

The RMOW hoped to have the bio-solids and composting waste ready before Arbor Day, and use volunteers help cover the area with the $16,000 in plant materials that they had purchased for the reclamation.

"With winter fast approaching, we realize we will not accomplish that in time," he says.

Instead, municipal crews and volunteers will plan and decommission little used trails in the forest. Tree stems will also be placed along the sides of the trails to "prevent the degradation of moss and plants off the trails by people wandering off of the path."

Although it looks like the application will be approved shortly, and that trucks will start dumping the bio-solids on the gravel pit prior to Arbor Day. It will be left to settle until Arbor Day in 2002, when the plant materials purchased for this year – all indigenous species – will be placed in the area by volunteers.

The workers will also lend a hand with projects to rehabilitate the shoreline of the River of Golden Dreams and 21 Mile Creek in the area.

"We have exposed gravel bars, the edges of which we would like to green up to prevent stream disturbance," Beswetherick says.

Local environmental groups will divide their efforts.

Members of the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, the Whistler Angling Club, and the Rotary Club will work on the River of Golden Dreams project as part of their own B.C. Rivers Day initiatives.

B.C. Rivers Day celebrations are scheduled for the following day, Sept. 30, at Edgewater Lodge. The Lodge has donated its facilities, including boats for a scavenger hunt on the water. Other activities include live entertainment, a barbecue, face painting, and fly-fishing demos by the Whistler Angling Club.

There will also be an open house to introduce the River of Golden Dreams Watershed Management Plan, which includes provisions to protect and restore the overall health of the watershed.

If you’re willing to get your hands dirty, and probably a little wet, Whistler Eco-Tours is supplying boats for anyone who wants to help clean up the River of Golden Dreams on Sept. 30.

Meanwhile the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, the Whistler Naturalists and other conservation group will work in the Emerald Forest.

If you want to volunteer for either the Emerald Forest or River of Golden Dreams projects, meet at the bottom of Lorimer Road at 9 a.m.

The RMOW took possession of the Emerald Forest on Sept. 16, 2000, as part of a three-way deal between the RMOW, Intrawest and Decigon, the company that previously owned the land. The Emerald Forest now completes the green corridor of valley bottom between Alta and Green lakes.

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