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A fruitful future: Selkirk planting fruit trees to help feed the community

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The city of Selkirk is working towards a more fruitful future.

During the first week of May, the city began planting 25 fruit trees in Selkirk’s downtown Water Tower Park - and it hopes to share the byproducts with the local community.

The majority of the trees are apple and there will be some plum ones as well.

Once the trees begin producing, locals will be encouraged to pick the fruit for personal consumption.

According to Vanessa Figus, the City of Selkirk’s manager of citizen engagement, the planting location was selected due to a lack of foliage in the area, and because of its prime location.

“We thought it was a great location for two reasons. One, because the area needed more trees. But it just fit well to offer the fruit trees next to the community gardens, in a downtown area that would be accessible for the community to come to,” said Figus.

The funding for the project was provided through a $4,300 grant from Tree Canada’s Community Tree Grants Program.

In addition to beautifying the area, officials also noted the important environmental impact of planting more trees.

“Our climate change adaptation strategy provides a comprehensive and cost-effective plan for the city to work towards addressing climate change. Of course, trees do so in many ways. Trees cool the air and reduce energy consumption. They enrich habitat and biodiversity for small animals. They manage storm water. Trees improve air quality and sequester carbon,” Figus said.

The community orchard will be added to the city’s tree inventory, meaning it will be monitored and taken care of for the entirety of its lifespan.

Residents will need a bit of patience though before they can begin picking the fruit of the city’s labour.

The city said it will take some time for the trees to become established and bear fruit.

“People can start to see fruit between two and five years. However, the trees won't be fully established for approximately eight to 10 years,” said Figus.

If the pilot project proves successful, the city said it’s open to the possibility of planting more in additional locations.

So far, Figus says the community response to the initiative has been “extremely positive.”

“Not only are we addressing food insecurity, but we are giving people a reason to come down and enjoy free local organic fruit while experiencing our parks,” Figus said.

Meantime, the fruit trees aren’t the only new ones in the area.

According to a news release, Selkirk is also in the midst of another major tree-planting endeavour and is placing around 260 news ones on medians and boulevards this spring.

The trees will be interspersed between existing ones, and those that are ailing, or need removal.

In order to best protect against invasive pests or diseases, such as Dutch Elm Disease and Emerald Ash Borer, 18 different species will be planted.

Planting will take place through June.

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