Thanks to nearly 200 volunteers, the riparian of the Bow River within town limits will be healthier.

A two-day Branches & Banks event, May 24-25, saw families, students and corporate volunteers come together to plant about 2,100 trees along the Bow River northeast of the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge.

Mother Nature was on their side. Cochrane received heavy precipitation leading up to the event and it wasn't looking good, even for a rain or shine event.

"It all worked out," says Tim Giese, president of the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee. "We had really nice weather in the morning while people were planting and then both days just as we were packing up the last few things, it started to rain on us. So, all these things came together, and I guess we couldn't have planned it much better than that."

He says they've receiving plenty of accolades for the event.

"I think it's a great community event and we got a lot of positive feedback from families that came out, who said they were just so glad to have a family event like this in town. A couple of people that have recently moved to Cochrane said it was so cool we did this, and say they'll be back next year."

trees West Fraser

Among those impressed with the event was Kyle MacMillan, newly appointed general manager of the Cochrane division of West Fraser. 

He says he's attended similar events while working for the company in smaller B.C. communities but none as large as this one.

"It's actually super cool to see the kids out here planting and it's really enjoyable."

West Fraser field forester Paul Hebrada was back to demonstrate how professionals plant trees, then the best practices for the students to follow.

MacMillan says he's pleased that the company has continued the tradition started by Spray Lae Sawmills of donating 300 white spruce saplings for the event.

For Trees supplied 1,800 of the trees, all of which are natural to the area and have the best chance of survival. It's been the regular supplier for the trees. Company president Gerard Fournier says many ornamental trees at garden centres and big box stores aren't conducive to the harsh conditions here

"Often I see plants offered for sale that clearly will not survive the winter in our climate," says Fournier, "and Cochrane being pretty close to the mountains has some special concerns with Chinook winds as well as the big differences in temperature and the altitude. We try to favour native trees and ones that have proven hardy."

Among the trees planted were a large variety of willows, lodgepole pine (Alberta's provincial tree) and somewhat exotic trees like burnt oak and Ohio Buckeye that were native to Alberta before the last ice age.

Giese speaks highly of Angie Basha, town parks employee for being a huge proponent of the annual tree planting.

"It's great to have the kids out and the kids involved on reclaiming some of the areas that have been disrupted during construction," she says. "We've always had schools wanting to get involved so now we've created this big event that's a one-day thing and get students on board and just help us do some reforesting of some areas."

Basha says they hope to be able to find locations every year for the annual planting and continue to involve students.


There was more going on than planting with the students. Some have lessons and assignments from the day in the field, like those pictured above from a Mitford grade 5 class. 

WILD (wisdom, inquiry, learning, doing) instructor Paulo Schafer, of École Manachaban Middle School, had 23 of his students at the event. The popular Emerald award-winning program centres upon the outdoors and teaches students to appreciate nature.

Schafer said this event was used to teach lessons in erosion and volunteerism.

"We had a discussion about how the trees are helping with erosion in the city," he says.

Giese says the event will continue next year, likely in another location in town in need.