A two-day Branches and Banks community tree planting is shaping up to be the largest ever, and more people are welcome to participate.

The weather looks ideal for the annual community tree planting this Saturday (May 13), which is spearheaded by the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC). It follows a corporate and school event the day before when 1,700 saplings are expected to be planted.

Tim Giese, president of the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee, says so far about 60 people have stepped forward to help on Saturday, with 14 of them coming from northwest Calgary.

He welcomes more families to come out, enjoy the day, and help plant 700 trees.

They'll also be resource people there from Cows and Fish to provide some hands-on outreach.

"We'll go down and get some water and some critters from the Bow River, and maybe even the stormwater pond, and let the people see what lives in the water, explain why we're planting these trees, and why it's so important."

To participate, all you need is a good pair of gloves, a shovel, and drinking water. Dress for the weather, and come prepared to get a little dirty.

Those participating are asked to preregister here.

"We want to make sure we have enough snacks (fruit, cookies, and such) so that people can have a bit of a break."

Participants will also have to do a little paperwork when they arrive.

Between the two days, about 2,400 trees and shrubs native to the area are being planted. Giese rattles of a list that includes willows, aspens, pine, spruce, wild rose, and snow brush.

"The only thing we're not going to plant is any kind of fruit-bearing trees because of the increasing issue of wildlife in the town, especially bears and animals like that.". 

About 90 students from five schools will be participating on Friday, alongside volunteers from Garmin and Chevron, and a few town employees.

The Rancheview class of Bill Besley is among the students participating. Last year, they declared their very own Cochrane Arbour Day and planted white spruce near the St. Timothy High School in Sunset Ridge.

"This year, they wanted to move their Arbour Day designation closer to ours. So as part of that, Spray Lake Sawmills is coming down and donating, I believe, 100 little tiny white spruce seedlings for those guys to plant."

Funding for this Friday's event is also being supplemented by a Trail Care grant awarded to the town by the Trans Canada Trail.

Even though grants and donations are being provided, the lion's share of the cost is being borne by CEAS. Giese says they are contributing $13,000 this year and it cost about $10,000 last year.

"When the Cochrane Farmers' Market is very successful, which it usually is, this is where a fair bit of the funding goes to pay for this big event."

Last year, 35 Garmin volunteers planted about 1,400 trees in some tough terrain further upstream in the Riverfront Park. It was smooth sailing for about the first two centimetres before hitting rock and gravel.

Giese says this area is grassy and should be easier to dig. The town will be mowing and marking off the area being planted to make it easier for the volunteers.

He says the rebound in interest for Branches and Banks has been inspiring. In 2018, the last one before the pandemic, he thought it had run its course. It was only one day and was difficult to get people out.

The enthusiasm of schools, businesses, and the community now has them considering doing a second one in the fall.

"It's amazing. I guess it's a good problem to have when we've got so much interest that we had to turn away a few schools."

He says they have promised to put those schools at the top of the list to contact for the next one.

"And who knows? Maybe they'll be more corporate ones, too, so we'll see how this goes in terms of coordination and having that many people at the site to get an idea of what the limit is that we can handle."