Cochrane Branches and Banks was an initiative of CEAC and its mission was to promote environmental stewardship and community spirit in the Town of Cochrane through the planting of trees and environmental enhancement activities within the community.
Since the inception of this community project in 1996, over 6,500 volunteers have planted nearly 45,000 trees in Cochrane, most of which are native species. Volunteers also cleaned the creeks, riparian and planting areas of garbage. The project originated as a community event to promote the formation of the Cochrane Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). It was also a symbolic gesture of sustainability and the philosophy of this organization.
Planting has been done along much of the Big Hill Springs Creek, Jumping Pound Creek, Bow River, and Mitford Park.
For many years the event was organized by the Branches and Banks Foundation, a non-profit society with funding from a variety of organizations and businesses. However, since 2013 the event has been fully sponsored (using proceeds of the Cochrane Farmers’ Market) and organized by CEAC.
The event was a family event, teaching all participants the benefits of volunteering and protecting the environment. This was an opportunity for everyone to contribute to the wellness of our community, well into the future.
In 2009, Branches and Banks organized its first two day event. In addition to the public tree plant on a Saturday, some Cochrane schools have participated in a separate tree planting on the Friday prior. It was a very successful addition to the B & B initiative through the efforts of some special and dedicated teachers. Over the ten years about 2500 very enthusiastic students in Grades 4 – 9 from Glenbow Elementary, Mitford, and Manachaban Middle Schools participated. Working in cooperation with the schools many links were created to various curriculum. The school planting projects also incorporated a locally developed and innovative technique of wrapping poplar trees to protect them from beaver damage.
Although planting was a primary focus of the event another key element was an environmental awareness education program for the volunteers. Several specialists were invited to develop short talks to highlight the ecology of the area. Through these talks, it was hoped that the volunteers would begin to have a greater appreciation of the local environment, and greater sense of pride and “ownership” in these projects.
Our 20,000th tree was planted in 2003 and in part celebrating the Town’s centennial. Branches and Banks also won the Emerald Foundation Award for Community Group in 2003. The 25,000th tree was planted two years later.
A major accomplishment for B & B in 2008 was the completion of the first of a set of educational signs slated for the waterways in Cochrane. The sign provides a brief overview of a riparian zone as well as a meander belt. It is located on the pathway just south of Glenbow Dr. In 2010 a second sign was installed providing information about some of the species that can be found in the creek. It is located near the bridge coming down the pathway stairs from Glenhill Dr. Also in 2010 B & B partnered with the Town and Spray Lake Sawmills to start a slope restoration project Park that had been badly overused and damaged in the Cochrane Ranche. A spray mulch impregnated with native grasses was applied to decommissioned trails.
In May of 2007 in another successful hands-on project, Branches and Banks worked with a local bioengineering expert, to stabilize an eroding bank on Big Hill Creek in the Cochrane Ranche. Bioengineering is a simple yet effective stream bank stabilization technique which uses cuttings of live local native trees such as willows. Large cuttings are pounded into eroded banks and smaller cutting are woven in tiers to create stability.
After the 2018 event it was decided to retire the program because of deceasing volunteer numbers. But CEAC was committed to re-starting this wonderful initiative and noticed that during the Covid-19 pandemic residents increased their use of outdoor public spaces which coincided with a rising interest in participating in outdoor activities such as tree planting.
In 2022 Branches and Banks was resurrected with a very successful 2-day event – one day was dedicated to a corporate tree plant event and the second day was a public event open to all community members.
In this video, Tim Giese shares his enthusiasm for urban riparian stewardship. Listen to find out why Branches and Banks is “so much more though than just going out and planting trees.”