Story Credit: Owen Sound Sun Times http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2017/11/05/a-man-on-a-mission-to-green-owen-sound
Lloyd Lewis believes all healthy cities are also “very green” cities with plenty of well-maintained trees and shrubs.
“Studies show that living and working in green areas is a healthier lifestyle. That includes people in hospitals; those recovering in nature or natural settings recover faster,” the Owen Sound resident said Saturday.
“Planting trees is also the biggest bang you can get for your buck in terms of fighting climate change. I think you've got to think globally but act locally.”
Lewis, a retired high school outdoor education teacher, has been involved in several initiatives over the years to “green” communities.
He volunteered for six years with a Neighbourwoods group in Centre Wellington, which helped the municipality to develop its urban forest by raising funds and providing volunteer time to plant and maintain trees and educate the public about the importance of the community's urban treescape.
He also created a school greening committee at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, which, for about a decade, empowered students and staff to plant trees and create pathways and arboretums on the school grounds.
Three years ago, Lewis and his wife Rhiannon moved to Owen Sound after he retired from the Upper Grand District School Board.
“I wanted to be near big water, I wanted to be able to do physical activities that suited my lifestyle and I loved the fact that in Grey County there's far more trees – it's about 35 per cent tree cover versus 17 per cent in Wellington County,” he said.
Recently, Lewis formed a Neighbourwoods North group here, which has a mandate of helping Owen Sound to create and maintain green public spaces.
For the group's first project, Lewis came up with the idea of planting 150 trees, as a nod to Canada's 150th birthday, at Kelso Beach Park.
He pitched the idea to Owen Sound, received the city's blessing and recruited volunteers to help with the late September tree-planting bee, which was part of a national TD Tree Days initiative.
Neighbourwoods North group volunteers, along with local TD employees and their families, Owen Sound Field Naturalists members and other volunteers planted mountain ash and serviceberry trees along Eddie Sargent Parkway and on other city property.
Lewis said Neighbourwoods North is working to soon be in a position to raise money to fund local greening initiatives.
The group is looking for new members.
“I have met dozens and dozens of people who say, you get it started and I will help out. So it's very exciting,” he said.
“I will be putting out a call for those who want to be in a more leadership position. We'll start this month to make decisions as a committee. We'll be creating a website and once we have a plan for next year, we'll be making announcements as to what we're going to do.”
Lewis said he has been working with a retired local doctor on a plan to enhance the green spaces at the Owen Sound hospital. The pair is scheduled to pitch a 10-year plan to Grey Bruce Health Services later this month to add more trees and pathways on the property.
Lewis said his group will be looking to target the greening of school grounds, parks, boulevards and in front of homes in Owen Sound.
He said he feels the public has a vital role to play in greening the community.
People cannot expect the city, for example, with its dwindling resources, to continue to create and maintain green public spaces on its own, he said.
“As a community, we need to step up and assist in this process while being watchdogs to protect what we currently have and the catalysts to promote further enhancement of public spaces,” he said.
Lewis said his overall goal is to see more well-maintained, strategically placed trees growing throughout Owen Sound as well as to increase the public's awareness of the value of trees.
“A $100 tree is worth tens of thousands of dollars in 50 years' time in terms of its impact of cooling buildings and taking shade and playing a role towards fighting climate change,” he said.
“The impact and pleasure that you get from seeing something like a tree or shrub growing over five or 10 years is significant. It's tangible. You can see the change that you've made.
“The things that I've done in the past where I will look at the grounds as they were and then look at them five or 10 years later and I'll see children playing in the shade of the tree and using the greening space where they weren't using it before.
“So I think all cities that are healthy cities are very green and well-planned-out cities. We need to work with the city to continue to foster that.”
Anyone interested in joining Neighbourwoods North or receiving more information about the group can call Lloyd Lewis at 226-256-8804 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.