While the beginning of the pandemic wasn’t an ideal time to launch a new volunteer program, staff from the Hamilton Watershed Stewardship Program were still keen to get the community involved any way they could. Buoyed by a grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Field of Interest Funds, Stewardship staff launched the EcoCise Program. The program sought to pair enthusiastic volunteers with a series of events removing invasive species and cleaning up garbage in the watershed’s natural areas. The pandemic certainly changed those plans but it didn’t stop them.
Despite all of the challenges, volunteers appreciated the opportunity to work outdoors. One email to staff captured that sentiment perfectly: “Thanks for hosting and organizing the event this morning! As a student whose semester is entirely online it’s nice to have these opportunities to still get outside and socialize while having fun with like minded people.” wrote volunteer, Melissa Martins.
All told, the EcoCise program was able to hold 8 physically-distanced, limited-capacity volunteer events during 2020, engaging 55 wonderful volunteers. The volunteers removed invasive species on 4.8 acres of land at different sites including Eramosa Karst CA and Borer’s Falls CA. Species targeted included Common Buckthorn, Multiflora Rose, Invasive Honeysuckle, Common Privet, Manitoba Maple, Invasive Barberry, Norway Maple, Japanese Knotweed and English Ivy.
The program is set to continue into 2021 though events will likely be scheduled later in the season as the pandemic continues to evolve.