Pictured is Charlie Willis, Christmas tree farmer with Kootenay Tree Farms. This will be the fourth year that Willis has donated cuts of Christmas trees to the Columbia Outdoor School fundraiser. (File photo)

Pictured is Charlie Willis, Christmas tree farmer with Kootenay Tree Farms. This will be the fourth year that Willis has donated cuts of Christmas trees to the Columbia Outdoor School fundraiser. (File photo)

Columbia Outdoor School hosts 4th annual Christmas tree fundraiser

Trees are sustainably grown and all proceeds will go towards youth programming

The Columbia Outdoor School is hosting their fourth annual Christmas Tree Fundraiser this year and you can now pre-order your tree for the holiday season.

Columbia Outdoor School says you can feel good about putting up a real tree in your home because the fundraiser sources trees that are sustainably grown by local Kootenay tree farmers.

Shona Rae of Columbia Outdoor School says that it is possible for a real Christmas tree to have many positive environmental benefits.

She spoke about Charlie Willis from Kootenay Tree Farms, who donates trees to the fundraiser every year.

“These trees are all Douglas firs that are naturally growing along several different hydro lines,” Rae explained. “Charlie maintains this stretch of trees to ensure that they get to stay there to provide habitat and ecological value for an abundance of living things.”

She adds that Willis can harvest Christmas trees year after year because he simply takes cuts of branches. Leaving the stump allows for the growth of many smaller trees ranging from five feet to nine feet in height. As one is removed, it allows for the ones growing to reach the sun and grow straight up.

This is a fairly common practice for tree farmers, however Willis’ situation is unique because these trees would be clearcut otherwise.

“It’s actually good for the environment to harvest the tree,” Willis says in an online video. “It opens up the land base; it allows for your forage to grow. The system we use, we don’t kill the stump. We get numerous trees off the same stump and it’s an item that will be used to raise funding each year.”

Purchasing trees from Columbia Outdoor School ensures that their programming can continue. The school started 45 years ago with the intention of teaching adults, children and youth about forestry. Today their work continues by giving youth the opportunity to get outside and learn about the natural world.

This year the fundraiser is especially important. For the first time in 45 years, Columbia Outdoor School’s Blue Lake Camp was unable to host their summer camp due to the ongoing pandemic. Over 2000 kids were expected to attend the camp this past summer.

READ MORE: Cranbrook, Kimberley communities participate in World Clean Up Day

Typically, getting a real Christmas tree also benefits the local Scouts and Girl Guide groups through their annual Christmas tree pick-up fundraiser. Unfortunately, Cranbrook Scouts and Girl Guides have had to cancel their annual pickup for January 2021.

“After much thought, we have had to cancel our annual community service of the Christmas Tree Pickup,” Cranbrook Scouts and Girl Guides said in a statement. “Due to the challenges of meeting COVID-19 protocols and the need to keep our youth and parents safe, we have had to make this hard decision. We hope we can be back to normal with the pickup in 2022.”

Rae says to worry not, as there are options for disposing of your tree in an ecological way.

“There are a few options,” she said. “First of all, you can lay it on its side in your backyard until the following winter and use the tree for firewood once it’s dry. Secondly, we are currently working on partnering with goat farmers to donate trees to, as goats can use them for habitat and food.”

There are two size ranges of trees available: five to seven feet or seven to nine feet. To pre order your tree contact the school at info@columbiaoutdoorschool.com. Be sure to include your name, phone number and the size of tree you’d like. Donations of all sizes are welcome.

Pickup times and days are to be determined, so be sure to follow along on the Columbia Outdoor School Facebook page and website for details. Trees will arrive between November 30 and December 5, 2020. There will likely be two separate days for pickup, one for the general public and one for businesses. Businesses can enter into the Columbia Outdoor School tree decorating contest for the chance to win a trip to Blue lake for the entire team.

For more details, head over to www.columbiaoutdoorschool.com.


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