A little bit about our guest speaker Catherine McNeely.
She is a life-long seasonal resident of Georgina, ON, and has lived here permanently since 2015. Her interest in planting native species began when she wanted to learn how to make her property more bird friendly. She used resources and guides on how to create enhanced habitat from the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA), and the Invasive Species Council. She started with planting 4 native trees, 12 shrubs, and a few dozen wildflowers in 2017 that she got from www.yourlef.ca and she has been planting and learning ever since. Her interest quickly grew beyond just making her yard bird friendly to a broader, holistic view of good land stewardship. She has seen the interconnectedness of life on her property, along with a huge increase in insects, birds, and small animals who live here with us.
Catherine planted with two things in mind: protecting her stretch of shoreline by planting indigenous grasses and plants and using indigenous, pollinator-friendly species of grasses, plants and flowers to attract and feed butterflies, bees, countless other insects, and birds. She has also worked with the organization LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests: https://www.yourleaf.org) and planted new trees on her property to replace ash trees lost to disease and predation. In fact, LEAF featured Catherine and her trees in their press release on the York Region-LEAF tree planting program, and she appeared alongside Georgina Mayor Margaret Quark and other York Region officials in the Georgina Post at a tree-planting ceremony on her property (https://thegeorginapost.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/june-10-16pg.pdf). She has also made extensive use of the resources available from both the LSCRA and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority with respect to being a good steward of the land and water on and adjacent to her property. Her efforts have been wildly successful; an amateur birder, she and her husband have recorded almost 50 different species of birds on their property since 2017. Foxes, rabbits and innumerable smaller animals are now regularly seen in the gardens, also. All of this is a direct result of the changes Catherine has made to her property: changes which provide food and habitat to a growing number of animals and plants.
Catherine has also actively sought to educate her friends and neighbours and has worked to spread the message of planting indigenous species. Neighbours have sought Catherine’s advice on what to plant on their properties and have begun small efforts to add biodiversity to their own gardens and lawns. She has consulted on similar projects for friends and family as far away as Toronto and King City.
In her own small way, Catherine continues to improve her shoreline and property, and to encourage, protect, and support biodiversity both on her own property and the properties of her friends and neighbours. I can think of no one more deserving of an award from the LSRCA.