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Bradford resident named Trees Ontario Green Leader for planting his Kawartha Retirement Oasis

Bradford, ON, October 12, 2010 – Aaron Hughes is the third generation owner of his family’s 100-acre Burys Green property located about 20 minutes northeast of Fenelon Falls. The land was originally settled in 1848 by Englishmen Stephen Billett who acquired it through a British Government program that offered free land to those immigrating to Canada. He later sold the property to his daughter and son-in-law who eventually sold it to Aaron’s grandfather in 1927 as the location for the Hughes family home and farm. Little did he know that one day his grandson would be working hard to restore the land to the way it was in 1927 and into a future retirement oasis for him and his family.

Before this would happen, Aaron’s dad took control of the land in the early 1960’s. Seeing the struggles his family had gone through, Aaron’s father realized he could only make a meagre living farming, so he rented the land for cropping and pasture and moved to Lindsay where he took a local factory job.

Over the next years, beavers dammed the creek that ran diagonally through the property. The overflow flooded most of the surrounding land, killed many of the trees and cut off access to the back 40 acres. Dutch Elm disease struck and killed off more trees. The land was completely transformed from its original lush green forest.

Although not living on the land, the Hughes family did use the property’s farmhouse as a seasonal residence. They enjoyed the break from life in Lindsay. And it was those summer trips that fuelled Aaron’s passion for agriculture and the environment.

“I remember when I was a kid I couldn’t wait to get up there every summer,” said Aaron. “I watched and assisted the family on the land with the hay and straw. When I turned 12, I would go and stay the summers with them. I did this every summer until college. And now I visit them when I can as they have become a second family to me.”

In 2005 when the property was passed to his stewardship, it provided Aaron with the inspiration to try and restore the land to the way he remembered it. Making his job easier was help his family got from Ducks Unlimited Canada who approached and worked with Aaron’s father in the 1990s to replace the beaver dam in the creek with a dike to maintain the water levels and wetland habitat. The installation of the dike made the land suitable for tree planting and once again allowed access to the back 40 acres of the property.

Recently married and planning a family, Aaron also wanted to create a summer home for his family to enjoy and to have experiences like the ones he so fondly recalls.

Aaron will also tell you that he was thinking somewhat selfishly about his own future – more specifically, where he wanted to live and play during his retirement.

Aaron’s first attempts to re-forest the land began quite modestly. Beginning just five years ago, he purchased and planted between 600 and 1,000 tree seedlings. It was hard work and many of the seedlings didn’t survive. They were either choked out by competing weeds or pulled out by grazing cattle.

Frustrated but not willing to give up, Aaron attended a local woodlot conference to see what he could learn and what support was available. There he met Eleanor Reed of Lands and Forests Consulting who introduced him to the 50 Million Tree Program – a program introduced by the Ontario Government that will see 50 million trees planted in southern Ontario by 2020. The program is run by Trees Ontario who works with local planting partners like Lands and Forests to provide eligible landowners with hands-on professional help and advice on tree planting including determining site eligibility, allocating funding and coordinating planting.

Excited to get started, Aaron invited Eleanor to do an assessment of his property, discuss his tree planting goals and develop a planting strategy. Aaron and Eleanor focused on replacing the trees that had been lost over the years and re-foresting the back 40 acres of the land that had been cut off when the creek overflowed.

To achieve this they planted 5,000 white pines, 1,000 red maples and 1,000 red oaks. Lands and Forests handled every aspect of the planting and are now monitoring the success rate and providing support to ensure these seedlings don’t suffer the same fate as the ones Aaron planted on his own.

“I know the trees I have planted won’t mature for at least another 20 years which means they should be forming into a beautiful forest when I am ready to retire. I can’t think of a better retirement present for myself and my family,” said Aaron.

The seedlings are now a couple of years old. Some are already one to two metres tall. When he visits the property and stands outside the farmhouse, Aaron can see his vision taking shape.

Aaron planted 5,000 white pines, 1000 red maples and 1,000 red oaks with the help of Trees Ontario and its partner Lands and Forests Consulting.

“I am excited that my family will have a beautiful place to visit in the summers and that my wife and I will have a retirement oasis – a place where we can enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife, where I can hunt and fish and we can walk the trails. It will also be a legacy I can pass on to my children and grandkids.”

His advice to other landowners who are thinking about planting trees on their properties is simple.

“You really need to contact Trees Ontario and check out the programs available. You don’t have to do it alone. There is a lot of support and are many incentives to help you achieve your tree planting goals faster than you could ever have dreamed possible.”

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs as well as local tree planting workshops to help you get started, visit: http://www.forestsontario.ca/