Gray skies dropped thick sheets of rain down on the four tree service crews that participated in this year’s Ontario Commercial Arborists Association (OCAA) Day of Service on May 7th, 2014. A wet start to the day wasn’t enough to dispel the spirits of the men from Arbortech, Norm’s, Chatham or CLC Tree Services though. The third annual Day of Service in Southwestern Ontario was in the Chatham-Kent Township and this year’s recipient of services was Camp Cataraqui.
Camp Cataraqui is a 100-acre Scout Canada camp surrounded by another 900 acres of the Clear Creek Provincial Nature Reserve. It is part of the Carolinian Forest and is considered an old growth area, with several old beech, spruce and oak trees, as well as plenty of maple, pine, hickory, sycamore and apple trees on site. Deer, wild turkeys, eagles and many other birds and animals live there, including the endangered Fowler Toad, Acadian Flycatcher and Five-Lined Skink.
While that is all very well and good for the campers who come to stay and spy the wildlife in the area, the OCAA Day of Service doesn’t incorporate much time for that. The reason behind the visit to Camp Cataraqui had more to do with the ash trees on the property. More specifically, the men were there to cut down as many of the dead ash trees as they could. Sadly, the emerald ash borer (EAB) had left behind its mark and 90% of the ash trees in the camp had succumbed to it.
Committee Member and volunteer Venture Leader Colin Pritchard began to notice that the ash trees didn’t look very good about three to four years ago. In the last two years, they struggled even more, with limbs and branches prone to breaking and snapping. Therefore when Phil Hime from Chatham Tree Services contacted co-Camp Manager Lawrence Ribey about being the site for the 2014 OCAA Day of Service, they were thrilled at the prospect. In exchange for refreshments, they would get as much tree service as could be fit in between 8 am – 3:30 pm. A fabulous trade.
So “rain or shine” the crews showed up to work. 17 men went to work on clearing the worst of the dangerous trees from beside roadways, on campsites, and near the obstacle course. Throw lines could be seen being tossed into the air repeatedly to minimize damage to surrounding trees. A little tug and down the trees went. Between the four crews working, each crew estimated that they cut down anywhere from 20 – 40 trees by the time they stopped for a late lunch of chili, pasta, raw veggies and garlic toast. Let me tell you, it was a welcome meal for those cold and hungry men.
What those arborists accomplished over the course of the day was far more than cut down a few trees though. Ian Johnston, from Arbortech, estimated that the services performed would have been equivalent to upwards of $10,000 worth of tree care. More importantly, they brought a much-needed level of security to anyone that uses the camp. An ash tree that succumbs to the EAB is left dry and brittle, prone to break at the slightest pressure. Anyone in the vicinity of one is in danger of being hit by falling debris. That is a liability that Camp Cataraqui cannot afford to have. And while there is still much work to be done at the camp, they are now on the way to a safer space for the hundreds of campers that use the camp all year long.
Thank you to the crews from Arbortech, Norm’s, Chatham and CLC Tree Services for another successful OCAA Day of Service. And thanks again to the wonderful volunteers at Camp Cataraqui for making everyone feel welcome.