Bring Back Nature Organizer Wants To Plant Ideas That Will Grow Into A Movement

Wilmot’s Stephanie Goertz said local residents can learn how to create wildlife habitats, protect local drinking water, and help to heal the land

Petersburg’s Stephanie Goertz is growing the Bring Back Nature movement. “We need to actually bring our community together, work collectively, and bring more voices to the table,” she said. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

Petersburg’s Stephanie Goertz is growing the Bring Back Nature movement. “We need to actually bring our community together, work collectively, and bring more voices to the table,” she said. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

A new series of workshops, titled Bring Back Nature, will require more hands-on involvement from attendees than the typical horticultural online event.

Founded under the umbrella of the Wilmot Horticultural Society, organizer Stephanie Goertz wants the virtual meetings to be more than a platform for speakers to share information with members of a captive audience who end up working independently of each other.

“We need to actually bring our community together, work collectively, and bring more voices to the table than the same ones that are always there,” said Goertz. “It’s more of a movement, connecting people that aren’t normally connected, and getting resources actually into their hands for action.”

The first Zoom meeting took place on Feb. 24, with more planned for April, June and August. The event was promoted as being for people who have land that they’d like to revitalize into forests, meadows or wetland. Attendees will learn from experts how to create wildlife habitats, reduce flooding, protect local drinking water, and help to heal the land, said a Facebook post.

Goertz was delighted to see a high level of engagement from attendees, some of whom started to discuss meeting at each other’s homes before the next online gathering, to offer on-the-spot help and advice. She’s hoping the group will become better informed by visiting each others’ land, hearing suggestions, retrieving plants, and building friendships.

The hybrid format of meeting on and offline will allow the group to grow closer as members get to know each other, she said.

“I think people are in desperate need of finding like-minded people that they can engage with and feel like they belong. Everyone left feeling like they’re in a community.”

She said it became apparent during the meeting that while some attendees were doing a lot of research and making progress on their own, more might be accomplished if residents worked together.

“People were saying, ‘I have this big empty space, and I’ve got no clue what to do with (it).’ Then you have Patty (Clarke), who has been doing this for 30 or 40 years. She knows where to plant and generally what to do, but she’s looking to connect with others.”

Attendees discussed the possibility of growing an Indigenous garden using traditional practices. One person advised that the project would need to be culturally respectful by adhering to ceremony and having an Elder present.

Goertz would like to convert at least 50 acres of land across the township each year, and she pointed out there are helpful resources available that residents might not be aware of.

“Ducks Unlimited will come in and do all the work and fund it,” she said, referring to the non-profit organization that works to conserve, restore and manage wetlands. On its website, Ducks Unlimited Canada describes itself as “a passionate community of people who believe that nature is the foundation of strong communities, a prosperous economy and a sustainable future that supports the hopes and dreams of the next generation.”

Goertz added, “If you have a large enough plot of land, you can apply for funding, and the GRCA (Grand River Conservation Authority) will come and plant trees. There are tons of opportunities to enhance our community.”

The GRCA’s Tree Planting Programs webpage states, “Landowners interested in a large-scale tree planting project and who have at least two hectares (five acres) of land may be eligible for a site visit with a GRCA Forestry Specialist.” It goes on, “Grants are available through funding programs such as Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program and the Rural Water Quality Program.”

Goertz’s goal is to find horticulturally-minded local residents who are willing to help each other. She also wants to locate Wilmot properties, or even neighbourhoods, that have large enough areas where trees and pollinator gardens can be planted.

“It’s about taking this perspective of eliminating grass, and the need to plant pollinators of wetlands and forest, helping to educate the community on the need for these things, and actually getting them to do it.”

She’d like to see a community that no longer regards grass as being standard, she added. “Trees, meadows and wetlands are standard in Wilmot, and we know the benefits.”

Anyone who wants to learn more about the Bring Back Nature initiative can email moc.liamg@stnevetrohtomliw.

Goertz said, “We want to grow this movement of restoring and bringing back nature, and revitalizing as many spaces as possible, because we understand the benefit to flood mitigation, water purification and animal habitat. It’s a call to action to people in our community.”