In 1998 Viola Palmer was in the grips of the tree planting bug. It’s fair to say she still is.
Having worked with husband Phil to restore their own Otaihanga property, the couple then turned their attention to the neighbouring Greendale Reserve.
Received by Kāpiti Coast District Council as the reserve contribution for the Greendale subdivision, the 3.5ha site was then a wasteland of weeds, blackberry and gorse, often grazed by animals from nearby properties.
Twenty-five years later it’s a haven of burgeoning native forest – home to kahikatea, rimu, totara, nikau palm, miro, kohekohe and many other eco-sourced species – complete with an easy walking track, serene picnic spot and abundant birdlife.
It’s the result of mahi by the dedicated Friends of Greendale Reserve volunteer group, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a gathering (and of course tree planting) on 5 August.
The group is inviting past and present volunteers, local neighbours and all who use and value Greendale Reserve to join them to mark the occasion. In the early days of restoration many Kenakena School pupils had helped and there is a particular invitation to any still in the area to stop by.
“My husband and I used to live next door,” Viola says of how it all started.
“We saw an unloved piece of land and decided something needed to be done. We had restored our own property and had the tree planting bug, so we carried on. After talking to the Council we asked if we could begin and they said go ahead.
“It’s a lovely piece of forest now.”
Today Viola says the Reserve replicates forest that would have been in the area originally. Plants that had not been sourced locally had not survived and were replaced with more site-appropriate specimens, which were thriving.
Fellow Friend of Greendale Reserve Chris Dearden says the planting effort complements a stand of several 200-year-old kahikatea that remained in the reserve and provide a link to the past.
“It’s an amazing achievement, started by Phil and Viola,” Chris says.
“To have the vision to see it could be done and was worth doing is amazing. Some of the trees planted will be around for a thousand years.”
The group has been supported by Kāpiti Coast District Council, Greater Wellington, Forest and Bird and many volunteers over the years.
Kāpiti Coast District Council team leader environment and ecological services Andy McKay says the change in the area is extraordinary.
“If this is what the tree planting bug can achieve, we hope many more people catch it,” says McKay.
“It’s a phenomenal effort that benefits the whole district – it’s a lovely place to be and is great for our biodiversity.
“Thank you to the Friends of Greendale Reserve and here’s to another 25 years.”
The 25th anniversary celebration will take place from 10am, Saturday 5 August at the Greendale Reserve in Otaihanga. All are welcome.
The Friends of Greendale Reserve work every Tuesday and are always open to new members.