An oasis of forest exists in the middle of Langley and it’s about to grow even bigger due largely to one woman – Dr. Kathy Dunster.
The campus grounds at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Langley are being reclaimed from an overgrown thicket of blackberry shrubs and invasive plant species to an indigenous urban forest thanks to the efforts of Dunster KPU’s urban ecosystems instructor within the Faculty of Science and Horticulture, and a generous grant from the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) and Tree Canada.
“This should all be an oasis of forest, an edible forest,” said Dunster pointing to an already reclaimed section of the ground sprouting salmonberries, which were planted and tended to by her and horticulture students as well as other university staff. “A forest that benefits people with fresh air, food, medicine and shade to sit under.”
CN and Tree Canada awarded KPU $25,000 through their CN EcoConnexions – From the Ground Up program. The grant is awarded for the greening of Canadian municipalities and Indigenous communities along CN rail corridors.
The funding will go towards the second phase of the Logan Creek Integrity Project to continue Dunster’s and the horticulture department’s work restoring ecosystem function to the stream and wetland systems on the south side of the Langley campus.
Several classes in KPU’s urban ecosystems program will remove invasive plants, hazardous trees, and re-indigenize the landscape with native species that will become part of Langley’s urban forest. Trees will provide shade over the creek and improve habitat for the 4,500 coho salmon fry released into the creek earlier this spring.
Walking beneath the shade of the ancient black walnut tree towards the first phase of the Logan Creek project, the advantages of a reclaimed urban forest are obvious. Dunster points to medicinal plants including yarrow, sorrel and rosehips. She also takes time to explain why the Western redcedar has special significance to the Kwantlen First Nation from which KPU gets its name. Following consultation with the Kwantlen people, she plans to plant a sacred grove of the redcedar trees from which bark can be stripped to do basket weaving or even one day from which a traditional canoe could be carved.
When it comes to the ecosystem, Dunster is playing the long game.
“What do we want this place to look like in 200 to 300 years?” she asks.
Of the more than 140 applications received by Tree Canada from various Canadian communities, only 27 were chosen for the CN EcoConnexions program and only three of those from B.C. including KPU Langley.
Since 2012, CN has planted more than 1.6 million trees through Tree Canada, many of which have been much-needed large caliper trees in municipalities and indigenous communities from coast to coast.
“Tree Canada is excited to continue our partnership with CN to bring CN EcoConnexions – From the Ground Up to 27 deserving communities across Canada. With this program, CN is creating a lasting legacy of sustainability for present and future generations, providing funding and much-needed awareness to the value of trees and green spaces to our health and wellbeing as well as the environment,” said Michael Rosen, president of Tree Canada.
Thanks to CN’s environmental leadership, the CN EcoConnexions – From the Ground Up initiative has been greening communities since 2012 with sustainable, environmentally responsible tree-planting projects. Tree Canada experts work closely with communities to assist with logistics, species selection and to make each project an opportunity for community members to gather and celebrate the benefits of trees and urban green spaces.
“CN is committed to making a positive impact on the communities along our network, and is proud to be part of a program that helps to make these communities better places to live, work and play. We’re not only helping beautify these communities, we’re positively contributing to a sustainable future one community at a time,” said Sean Finn, executive vice-president, corporate services and chief legal officer for CN.
A celebration event of the CN EcoConnexions grant will take place at KPU Langley in the fall.
For information on KPU’s horticulture programs, visit kpu.ca/hort.