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. This year’s recipient of services was Camp Cataraqui.
Day of Service at Camp Cataraqui
Camp Cataraqui is a 100-acre Scouts Canada camp surrounded by another 900 acres of the Clear Creek Provincial Nature Reserve. It is part of the Carolinian Forest and holds an old growth area with several old beech, spruce and oak trees, as well as plenty of maple, pine, hickory, sycamore and apple trees. 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 to enjoy who come to stay and spy the wildlife in the area, the OCAA Day of Service doesn’t allow 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 its mark. 90% of the ash trees in the camp had succumbed to it.
Another Blight from the EAB
About three to four years earlier, Committee Member and volunteer Venture Leader Colin Pritchard began to notice that the ash trees didn’t look very good. 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 and 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 were repeatedly tossed into the brittle trees to minimize damage to surrounding trees. A little tug and down the trees went.
By the time they stopped for lunch, each of the four crews estimated they had cut down anywhere from 20 – 40 trees. Let me tell you, the chili, pasta, and veggies were a welcome meal for those cold and hungry men.
Days of Service with a Difference
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 upwards of $10,000 worth of tree care. More importantly, they brought a much-needed level of security to anyone who uses the camp.
An ash tree that succumbs to the EAB becomes 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 left to do, they now have a safer space for the hundreds of campers who 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.