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Greenways Land Trust made it work in a difficult year

Restoration work funded for 2021
Community Gardens operated by Greenways Land Trust were allowed to operate as essential services during the pandemic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham - Campbell River Mirror

Despite much of the focus being on COVID-19 this year, a Campbell River environmental group has been diligently doing restoration, environmental education and food security work.

Greenways Land Trust had a good year this year. In the days before the pandemic, things were looking like they always did. Greenways held a few events early in the year, raising money for Australian wildfire relief and running their regular educational programs in the community and in local schools. Then as the full extent of the pandemic came into view, the organization had to pull back and revisit their plans.

“We had to move staff out of the office right away of course, but we kept on doing what we’ve been doing. For public outreach, we had our public walks go online, so we didn’t have to stop doing that,” said Sandra Milligan, Greenways’ president.

Much of what Greenways does is adaptable to either online work or physical-distancing. Previously, courses were held in person with many people in attendance, but Greenways was able to do those over streaming platforms and are actually reaching a wider audience with social media.

“With the workshops, particularly with the garden workshops, we’ve been able to give a workshop online that gets recorded. The benefit is that we have that knowledge in a presentable way so we can give people access to it. We have a Greenways Youtube channel. So when usually people would have to show up to a workshop, now if they can’t make it out physically they can watch it afterwards,” Milligan said. “We found that … people who had never made a garden before were gardening. So with the gardening workshops, we had like 60 people at our gardening workshops online.”

Those workshops, which cover gardening from planning to planting to harvesting are all available online.

Restoration work, while typically a group activity, also lends itself to a more socially-distanced format. This year, smaller cohort groups and families went out to do the work, instead of the larger work parties. This was also the case for Greenways’ fruit tree gleaning program and their trail maintenance work.

“One thing that happened with COVID is people realized that they couldn’t be doing things in groups,” Milligan said. “There were a lot of families who were at home. For solace, people head to nature. I think the positive thing about COVID is that we have people who maybe haven’t been in nature for a long time getting back to nature. In a time where people are challenged and stressed, it’s a great boost to be able to spend time in the forest.”

Looking forward, Greenways has received various grants to undergo more conservation and restoration work in 2021, and Milligan says she thinks the pandemic has also highlighted the need for people to protect the environment as cracks in many of our systems are being exposed, so she hopes the type of work they do can get more attention in the future.

RELATED: Greenways Land Trust gets $275K for restoration work on Baikie Island

“The other thing that COVID did, was to really emphasize the need for food security and local food in the community. When trucks weren’t coming from the U.S., at the beginning there we really tried to look at the local environment and tried to see where there were opportunities to be growing more food,” she said.

“There’s no future without a healthy environment. People get disconnected and don’t realize how fundamentally our environment is to our own well-being. People need a healthy environment. We can’t grow food in an unhealthy environment,” she added. “It’s kind of hard for us to understand living the way we do, surrounded by so much natural beauty, that most of the planet has been significantly degraded.

“It’s our responsibility to protect our natural area here for everyone on the planet. We owe that to people who live in completely urbanized areas or areas that are completely agricultural where they’re growing food that we eat.

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the environment for everybody on the planet.”

RELATED: Greenways looks to (help things) grow in 2020

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