The Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FOTMW) are looking to grow their cohort of volunteers as their June 26 ash drive and summer dispersal project approach.
FOTMW is an environmental nonprofit that oversees ASHMuskoka, a project that aims to address calcium decline in Muskoka using wood ash. During ash drives, the organization needs volunteers to register the names and license plates of donors, offload ash from donor’s vehicles, and filter and package the ash into barrels for dispersal. Later in the summer, volunteers will help spread the ash throughout forest plots to help restore calcium levels in the soil and nearby waterways. Tim Kearney, project director for ASHMuskoka, said part of their experiment is determining the impact of ash as it gets absorbed by the trees through the soil at various dosages.
“Right now we’re working on the two tonnes per hectare dosage, and we will be doing a [dispersal] in the summertime shortly after the June 26 ash drive,” he said. “The plots are usually 40 metres by 40 metres [and] there’s four of them, so you’re walking through the bush in a carefully marked out area and gently sprinkling the ash on the ground.”
Ash dispersal is a good fit for volunteers who can handle a hike through the forest during bug season while the volunteer roles at ash drives offer opportunities for a fairly wide range of ages and abilities. All the volunteers need to participate is a pair of safety boots, a mask, some goggles and a willingness to get their hands (and clothes) dirty.
FOTMW has a “small army of people” that come to ash drives and follow their social media, Kearney said, but they’re still hoping to grow the ranks. Each event only takes about eight to 12 volunteers, and though a day at the dump may not sound appealing at first, many participants can’t believe how fun and fulfilling it is to help out at the ash drives.
“The people that help out and the people that donate, I call them the army of advocates,” Kearney said. “They’re fabulous people. We have a great time, we like to joke around, we have fun. And on top of that, everybody there knows they’re doing something good for the environment and for the future.”
Kearney asks prospective volunteers to reach out to FOTMW by phone or email so they can plan ahead and ensure they have enough help at each event. For those looking to help out by donating ash, the June 26 ash drive at Rosewarne Transfer Station offers the chance to donate for the first time since March. Since the drive happens less than a week before Canada Day, they’re giving away packages of wildflower seeds to the first 50 donors.
“It’s our first ash drive after the shutdown, and so we’re encouraging people to take a package of seeds and they can sow them in their garden,” Kearney said. “Because it’s close to Canada Day, we’re going to decorate the area we’re working in with Canada flags and stuff, and there’ll be a special prize awarded to what we call the best dressed donor.”
Like past ash drives, the event will also include giveaways with prizes donated by local businesses. There will be a morning and an afternoon giveaway offering a framed print and a gift certificate and the winning donors will be selected at random.
To attend the upcoming ash drive, go to Rosewarne Transfer Station in Bracebridge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 26. To volunteer, reach out to the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 705-640-0948. To learn more about the ASHMuskoka project, click here.