On October 20th, 2011 Quiet Nature hosted the first annual Open Ayr Gathering of Applied Ecological Restoration Professionals. The weather was not in our favour, so the event was ironically held indoors at the historic Richwood Schoolhouse, a 150 year old stone building 10 km south-west of Ayr.
As it turns out this was the perfect venue, both in terms of scale and pure aesthetic appeal. Thanks to all those who attended, our staff for their help with setting up, our facilitators from the University of Guelph, Kobbler”s Kitchen for the fantastic catered lunch, and of course our wonderful speakers.
The purpose of the day was to host an informal gathering where professionals in the field could get together, learn from a few experts, share experiences, socialize, network, and think up ways to better the industry. Turns out when you put thirty like-minded individuals in a room together with good conversation and great food, that one day is barely long enough.
Our four speakers were most informative and very well received, with lively Q&A following each talk. Mark Peterson, a landscape architect based in Kitchener, shared his experiences learned over the past twelve years designing and managing landfill reforestation projects in Waterloo and Cambridge, with particular regard to competition/invasive species control, adaptive management, & evolving plant selection. Another landscape architect from Waterloo, Brian Roth of Roth and Associates, discussed naturalization in the urban setting, giving specifics into LEED building requirements for landscapes, the acceptance of native plants and the ‘wild look’, green roof applications, and the development of the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Todd Fell, manager of the landscape architecture department at Dougan and Associates, delivered a great overview of the flow of work within the industry, from initial EA assessments, through restoration planning, contractor selection, and follow-up warranty inspections. Todd’s talk lead to a great discussion regarding the challenges of implementing successful restoration projects within the confines of the bid/tender process and typical construction timeframes. Our final speaker was Mary Gartshore of Pterophylla Native Seed and St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre. Mary is well known as a foremost expert and restoration pioneer within the industry. Her talk and slideshow covered fifteen plus years and over 300 ha of successful restoration projects in and around Norfolk County, with specific insight into species selection, invasive species control, local genotype seed stock, various application rates, site preparation techniques, and aftercare.
Despite the weather, it turned out to be a very enjoyable and informative day, and we managed to squeeze in a rushed, lunchtime tour of the meadow restorations on our property here in Ayr. A few people have asked, and yes, plans are underway for the second Open Ayr Gathering in August or September of 2012. Based on the excellent feedback from attendees, this year’s event will likely be held over a period of two days, giving time for expanded project tours, elaboration on existing discussions, and addition of new topics and speakers.