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College celebrates our forest heritage

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon was a guest speaker at Algonquin College's Tree Day event on Wednesday, Sep. 23, talking about the importance of trees to the county's forestry and tourism industries as well as the need for continued emphasis on sustainability.

Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon was a guest speaker at Algonquin College's Tree Day event on Wednesday, Sep. 23, talking about the importance of trees to the county's forestry and tourism industries as well as the need for continued emphasis on sustainability.

The main common area at Algonquin College Waterfront Campus in Pembroke was abuzz with green-themed activity as staff, students and special guests came together to celebrate National Tree Day.

"[It's] a national celebration of trees," explains Algonquin's Outdoor Adventure Naturalist Program coordinator Ian Pineau. "Here in Pembroke, obviously, we have a huge connection to trees from the lumbering industry, but also in Perth as well and at the Woodroffe campus they're doing their own events as well. We're trying to emphasize and bring awareness to the ecological goods and services that trees and forests give to us. We wouldn't be here without trees and forests, and you can work your way backwards and figure out, evolutionarily, how we depend on plants. The intention of National Tree Day is to celebrate that reciprocal arrangement, because now we're in a situation where we're impacting the tree's environment in a big way. We're trying to make a connection here between trees and forests; Algonquin College with our outdoor programs; and our partners like Shaw Woods, Ontario Forests and the National Wildlife Federation."

Within the college's walls, the event featured displays and booths hosted by a variety of forest-focused stakeholders and partners, and at the nearby Pembroke Waterfront Amphitheatre, speakers addressed a group made up in part of first-year Algonquin Forestry Technician students and in part of high school students who one day may be considering the program themselves.

For dean Karen Davies, the event is a natural fit for a Pembroke post-secondary institution, particularly one with the history that Algonquin has.

"This campus and this community have a long history with trees," she said in her welcoming address. "The early settlers to Pembroke came here because of the abundant forests and the livelihood the trees provided. When our campus opened in 1967, forestry and the former woodsworker programs were among the first full-time programs offered. Our forestry technician program has stood the test of time and continues to be one of our most popular flagship programs almost 50 years later.

"Algonquin College has made a commitment to sustainability. The efforts of our faculty and students to bring awareness to "Tree Day" is one example of our commitment to educating our community about sustainability."

One special guest speaker at the celebration was Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon, who spoke to students about the various opportunities that nearby forests have always provided to residents of the county.

"It allows us to address another generation and talk about forestry as a collaborative effort," he said of the event after concluding his official address. "It's not just about cutting down trees, it's about managing forests through the forest management programs, and it's also about the fact that the industry has been very good to work with other shareholders, whether it's conservationists or environmentalists or recreationalists, to ensure that forests are used by everybody. It's no longer just a place to make money and to pull product from, it's a place to grow the product again and again and it's also a place for the public to enjoy."

ryan.paulsen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @PRyanPaulsen