The Speed River Project; Uniting the Community Through Treeplanting

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Written by Caroline Elworthy

Over 50 like-minded volunteers braved the cold and met at York Road Park to participate in the Speed River Project’s Community Tree planting as facilitated by OPRIG Guelph. Community members began to arrive at York Road Park, overlooking the Speed River at 10am and were greeted with hot coffee, outfitted with a shovel, planting gloves and shown the ropes on how to plant the various species of  shrubs and plants along the Speed River’s bank.

The Speed River Project, in cooperation with OPIRG is constantly working towards continuing the conversation on the river systems surrounding Guelph, and the various ways to improve the quality of water and environment for ourselves and downstream communities. The Speed River Project is an initiative which stemmed from OPIRG’s Annual Speed River Cleanup, and began the first phase of rehabilitation between 1988 and 1997 which involved large-scale naturalization, dialogue and educational outreach.  The Speed River Project looks to engage both students and the community in direct action to maintain and further enhance the natural habitat along the Speed and Eramosa Rivers.

“It is very important for University of Guelph students to participate and be aware of OPIRG-Guelph events”, says Kiran Bhattara, the Speed River Project Coordinator at OPIRG. “


 “It is particularly important for them [students] to understand how their membership is contributing to social and environmental justice in our community, on-campus and off-campus. Engagement in the Speed River Project activities like this is one way to bridge the divide between academia and community practice”, Bhattara concludes

The Speed River Project upholds the visions that by installing habitat features, removing waste, planting native tree and shrubs while avoiding any use or promotion of pesticides or fertilizers will create an enriched living habitat for both humans and wildlife. Planting trees specifically along the riverbank will increase the plant biodiversity in the riparian buffer zone, creating a better habitat for wildlife.

OPIRG has been running the Annual Speed River Cleanup for 35 years, yet as Bhattara says “This was one of the most successful events we have seen in recent years. We completed tree planting one hour earlier than expected. The volunteer turnout was excellent despite it being Sunday morning. Our social media engagement strategy must have worked well”.

OPIRG is a fantastic resoucrce for any students or community members who are interested in becoming actively involved in various social justice and evniromental issues relevant to the local and broader community. The organisation is located on 1 Trent Road right behind Johnston Hall and welcomes any new or interested volunteers as no prior experience is needed to volunteer. OPIRG offers students and community member the opportunity to gain a variety of skills and knowledge to work towards awareness and change for environmental and social justice issues. For more information check out their website at www.opirgguelph.org, or their Facebook page. 

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