Disregarded old mill is revived for second life as diverse ecosystem

Rockwood's Bill Grierson is Trees Ontario's latest Green Leader. With the help of his local conservation authority, Grierson restored his former lumber mill property, which fell into despair, through the planting of 10,000 trees, restoration of a destroyed creek and the return of fish and wildlife. (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)

Environmentalist Bill Grierson Announced as Trees Ontario's Latest Green Leader

ROCKWOOD, ON, April 22, 2014 /CNW/ - Referring to Bill Grierson as a conservationist is an understatement.

The Rockwood resident, along with his wife, three daughters, five horses and four dogs, live on an 80-acre farm near Milton that once functioned as a lumber mill (1847-1920). Today, the former "Sayers Mills" property - with a nostalgic sign still intact at its entrance - is a shining example of a diverse ecosystem.

However, when he first acquired the property, almost 20 years ago, Grierson says it was in complete disrepair. The creek could not flow due to discarded garbage, livestock manure also polluted it, the house was almost condemned and few trees and wildlife existed on the land. "The property has so much history and the mill was very successful. But after it closed there was no purpose for the property anymore," he explains. "The mill pond was a dump ... believe it or not, I pulled out a mattress, stove and bags of garbage! Now it flows pristine and the pebble bottom has returned for the first time in 80 years."

With a background in graphic design and a professional career working within the Town of Milton's engineering services department, Grierson's affinity for creating, restoring and even rehabilitating is no surprise. Further to the approximately 10,000 native trees Grierson planted on the property since 2010, he has also played a hand in re-establishing its formerly destroyed creek (winning an award in the process) and rehabilitating wildlife with help from local vets (using on-site shelters he built). Studies by local biologists have also shown the growth of populations of species that only live in pristine waters. Lastly, he uses this knowledge and experience to act as an environmental ambassador not only for his daughters' benefit, but also in public forums as a means to raise awareness.

This dedicated involvement is what encouraged Conservation Halton Forestry Technician Jennifer Roberts to nominate Grierson for Trees Ontario's Green Leader program. The title is given to private landowners who've participated in the government of Ontario's 50 Million Tree Program (50 MTP) and made a considerable contribution toward enhancing the province's forest cover.

"I nominated Bill because he is a very dedicated landowner who wants to do the right thing for the environment, and he has been educating himself on how to improve his property so that it has the greatest positive impact on the natural surroundings," says Roberts. "He cares about every aspect of nature - whether it be fish and wildlife habitat, pollinators or water quality. He has a strong tie to his land and it shows in all of the projects he has taken on."

Grierson praises the help of Roberts, Conservation Halton and also credits the planting subsidies he received as motivation. "Once I heard about the [50 Million Tree] program I thought it was heaven-sent," he says. "Jennifer sat with me and planned a diverse forest ... we planted every inch we could manage at that time!"

Walking the property now brings Grierson joy as he notices some of the trees they planted are taller than his daughters (aged 10, 13 and 15). He said originally he struggled to plant trees on his own by hand, but was relieved when he discovered he was eligible for the 50 MTP and would not only benefit from subsidies but also the opportunity to work with local forestry experts.

"The trees the Griersons have planted are helping to fight climate change and re-green southern Ontario," said David Orazietti, Minister of Natural Resources. "Trees are an important part of the biodiversity of this beautiful province, and I commend the Griersons for being such good stewards of the land."

Fascinated by biology and nature his entire life, Grierson is also a beekeeper hobbyist and owns 21 hives. "My goal was to create a diverse eco-system [on the property]... Right now I'm doing everything I can to ensure the long-term success."

"Bill's desire to restore and re-green his land serves as an inspiration to all Ontarians," noted Rob Keen, CEO of Trees Ontario. "His commendable actions and planning have set the groundwork for the long-term success and preservation of this historical property."

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs, as well as local tree planting workshops, visit: www.treesontario.ca/programs/#50MILL

About 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP)

Trees Ontario administers the Ontario government's 50 Million Tree Program, part of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign. The United Nations' goal is to plant one billion trees worldwide each year. Ontario is committed to plant 50 million trees by 2025.

The goals of the program are to sequester carbon, enhance and diversify southern Ontario's landscape, increase the capacity to withstand climate change, and increase wildlife habitat. The 50 Million Tree Program is designed to significantly reduce the costs to landowners of large-scale tree planting and thereby increase the number of trees planted across the province.

About Trees Ontario

Trees Ontario is a not-for-profit charitable organization committed to the re-greening of Ontario through tree planting efforts on rural lands and in urban areas. Since 2004, Trees Ontario and its more than 80 provincial partners have planted more than 18 million trees across the province. 

SOURCE Trees Ontario

Image with caption: "Rockwood's Bill Grierson is Trees Ontario's latest Green Leader. With the help of his local conservation authority, Grierson restored his former lumber mill property, which fell into despair, through the planting of 10,000 trees, restoration of a destroyed creek and the return of fish and wildlife. (CNW Group/Trees Ontario)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140422_C9724_PHOTO_EN_39207.jpg

For further information:

For more information, photos or to arrange an interview please contact: 

Shelley McKay      
Director of Communications & Development
Trees Ontario
e: smckay@treesontario.ca
p: 416-646-1193 ext. 232