Manitoulin Nature Club hosts successful tree conference

Pat Costigan talks about the history of the Williamson walnut tree at the Old School Park to Central Manitoulin Public School students. photos by Robin Burridge

MINDEMOYA—The Manitoulin Nature Club hosted the Notable Trees of Manitoulin (NTOM) Trees, Trees, Trees conference last Friday and Saturday at the Mindemoya Community Hall.

“We had over 80 people attend the conference, plus 70 students from Central Manitoulin Public School and Lakeview School,” said Manitoulin Nature Club spokesperson Gail Robinson. “It went very well. I only heard rave reviews from everyone. The students seemed to be enjoying themselves too. I’m so glad we included them—to me that’s what it is all about, passing on knowledge and planting a love of trees.”

There were numerous guest speakers on the agenda on Friday including Agricultural Development Advisor with OMAFRA Brian Bell on soil fertility, arborist Peter Jones on Manitoulin orchards, Mike Laende on Manitoulin tree form and structure, retired forester George Stanclik on managing Crown land, Edith George of the Ontario Urban Forest Council in Toronto speaking on what a heritage tree is and why they are important to protect, Sault Ste. Marie foresters Laing Bennett and Lesley Phillips presenting on plantation management and dendrology and species at risk coordinator Theodore Flamand and stewardship coordinator Wayne Jack talking about revitalizing forested lands.

Gail Robinson demonstrates how to pot pine tree seedlings to a group of Lakeview School students.
Gail Robinson demonstrates how to pot pine tree seedlings to a group of Lakeview School students.

Keynote speaker Edith George was a crowd favourite who began her presentation by stating that she was ‘a tree hugger before it was cool.’

Ms. George detailed her work fighting for a red oak tree in Toronto to be named a heritage tree and be protected by the city.

She explained the process of grading a possible heritage tree and the many categories including: rarity, prominence, integrity, appearance, form and social importance.

The students enjoyed many interesting presentations such as ‘an historical tree’s history’ with Edith George, ‘the neat bugs of Manitoulin’ with Joe Shorthouse, ‘tree stores’ with Kate Thompson, ‘the Junior Ranger program’ with Derrick Luetchford, the history of the Williamson Tree with Pat Costigan, and potting pine tree seedlings with Gail Robinson.

Ms. Costigan explained that her family, the Williamsons, came from Ayr, Ontario. Her great grandparents had mumerous walnut trees on their family property and when her great grandfather moved to the Mindemoya area, as did a number of his brothers and sisters, they planted walnut trees on their property.

“The third Williamson to move here, David, was my great grandfather,” said Ms. Costigan.

Joe Shorthouse talks about the history of the Hawberry tree at the Old School Park in Mindemoya during one of the tours of Notable Trees of Manitoulin.
Joe Shorthouse talks about the history of the Hawberry tree at the Old School Park in Mindemoya during one of the tours of Notable Trees of Manitoulin.

In 1998 the Williamson family had a reunion and Ms. Costigan said that she and her sister went to the Ayr Williamson homestead and got permission to remove several small walnut trees which they transplanted around the Island, including the one next to the Mindemoya Community Hall.

Lunch was prepared by Garden’s Gate Restaurant and Burt Farm Country Meats, with the funding for the meal provided by Domtar.

Each conference attendee and student went home with a pine tree seedling, provided by College Boreal. 

On the Saturday of the conference, there were a number of walks led across Manitoulin, touring the NTOM. The conference wrapped up with a presentation from Edith George about the importance of heritage trees and a guided walk at Misery Bay Provincial Park.

The guest speakers of the Trees, Trees, Trees conference post for a group picture.
The guest speakers of the Trees, Trees, Trees conference post for a group picture.

The Manitoulin Nature Club started the NTOM initiative last year, reaching out to Islanders to nominate ‘witness trees’ or trees of significance.

The Expositor profiled the notable trees in an ongoing series, highlighting nominated trees and interviewing the individuals behind the nominations.

The club has received close to 50 tree nominations, which were highlighted at the conference.

The club will be compiling the nominations into a guide, allowing Islanders and visitors alike to visit some of the many amazing trees on Manitoulin.