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Green Team kicks off Environment Week with city support

Sixteen people joined on a rainy Sunday to remove invasive species from Central Park and make way for native plants

On Sunday, June 2, the Lower Mainland Green Team organized a community activity to remove invasive plant species from Central Park in Burnaby. Even though it was raining heavily, 16 people showed up and eagerly participated in the activity from 9:45am to 1pm. The group removed invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry, English ivy, and English holly. 

Participants in the Sunday, June 2 activity to remove invasive plants at Central Park. Photo: Lower Mainland Green Team

Burnaby councillor, Maita Santiago attended the activity to show support and the event was organized in partnership with the city, which provided logistical and financial support. The activity was one of the city’s Environment Week events.

Participants included residents of Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey, North Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody, and Coquitlam. The Green Team is organizing another similar activity at Cariboo Heights Forest on Saturday, June 8 from 9:45am to 1pm. 

“Invasive plants tend to have an overall negative impact on the ecosystem, which puts it out of balance. We like to have a lot of diversity of plants because they all bring different things to the ecosystem,” said Ashton Kerr, program director for the Lower Mainland Green Team. “Removing invasive plants is an excellent activity for people to get involved and feel inspired because you can really see a big difference between when you first start an activity and the end.” 

Kerr said these activities are open to participants of all ages and abilities. However, some outdoor activities may not be fully wheelchair accessible. Still, volunteers who use wheelchairs can contribute in other ways, such as documenting the activity with photos, greeting people, checking them into the activity, and setting up snacks. 

Volunteers with the Lower Mainland Green Team removing invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry. Photo: Lower Mainland Green Team

Kerr started as a volunteer with the Green Team in 2018 while a student at UBC and has been the full-time program director for three years. 

“I really loved how personal the experience felt for me. I really felt that I was a valued member of the team, not just someone who was coming out to volunteer my time. I felt really seen and appreciated,” she said.  

According to Kerr, since 2011, the Green Team has had almost 20,000 community members participate in activities, and 65% were doing it for the first time. In 2023 alone, the team organized 80 activities engaging 3,800 people. Each activity attracts between 20 and 50 people. Last year, the team coordinated with the City of Burnaby’s engineering department on the city’s litter cleanups, attracting more than 100 people to each activity.

Volunteers removing invasive plants at Central Park, Burnaby. Photo: Lower Mainland Green Team

In addition to creating a sense of community and fostering friendships among participants, Kerr believes these events also improve awareness of not only the negative effects humans have on their environment but also the positive effects. 

“We as humans, we always think we only have a negative impact on the environment, but the opposite is true too. We actually have a really great positive impact on the environment, which has been shown by Indigenous peoples who have been caring for nature for so long, and nature has become dependent on them in many ways,” she said. 

The City of Burnaby is the Lower Mainland Green Team’s partner in its various activities. The city’s planning and parks departments determine the location, timing, and nature of the work. They also provide expertise to ensure the activities align with the city’s environmental goals.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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