'Snack-belt' of fruit trees aims to make Saskatoon more sustainable

Organized by the Snack-Belt for Sustainability, the 4,400-square-metre edible shelter-belt will reduce erosion along the river and provide fruit for people using the trails in the future.

Students from the U of S and other community members planted belt of 210 fruit-bearing trees this weekend

Tree Canada's Kelvin Kelly holds up two of the fruit trees that are being planted along the Meewasin Valley trail as part of a 'snack belt,' intended to improve food security and sustainability in Saskatoon. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

Future users of the Meewasin Valley trails in Saskatoon should have access to fresh fruit near the University of Saskatchewan, as 210 fruit-bearing trees were planted along the trail system on Saturday.

Organized by a group of U of S students, the project, called the Snack-Belt for Sustainability, features a 4,400-square-metre shelter-belt of fruit trees that will reduce erosion along the river and provide fruit for people using the trails in the future.

"The purpose is to enhance the sustainability of Saskatoon as a whole, and that starts with planting a couple of trees," said Jordan Shirley, a member of the group organizing the project.

"This is going to help improve the area and improve how many people want to use this bike path in the winter or the summer to bike to university.… All that makes Saskatoon a greener city."

Shirley said up to 100 volunteers were expected to participate in the tree-planting event, which will also help address issues around food security that are becoming more prevalent in Saskatoon.

Some of the fruits that will be produced include dwarf sour cherries, dwarf apples, gooseberries and of course, saskatoon berries. Shirley said with 210 trees, there should be ample supply.

"It's a large enough amount of trees that the community members can come here and be able to pick fruit without it all being picked over by other people," he said.

The snack belt, which will need a few years to mature, is located between the Train Bridge and the Circle Drive Bridge.

A tree is placed near a hole where it will be planted Saturday as part of a tree-planting event organized by the group behind the Snack-belt for Sustainability. The orchard will be home to 210 fruit-bearing trees. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC )

The project, sponsored by Tree Canada in partnership with FedEx, is one of several tree-planting initiatives, which have already planted more than 63,000 trees planted across Canada over the last decade. 

Kelvin Kelly, a forester with Tree Canada, said the event is important from an environmental standpoint, but it's also inspiring to see people come out and donate their time.

"It brings the community together," he said.

"Saskatoon is a large community compared to some of the smaller towns or cities that we plant trees in, but it always is overwhelming to see the amount of community support that comes out to these events." 

The support for the initiatives "tells me that they want to do something for the environment and their community," he said.

People work to plant fruit trees on the Meewasin Valley trail system on Saturday. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC)

That sentiment was echoed by Tyler Dawson, who volunteered at the planting to support a friend and because he sees the value in the effort. 

"It shows that people care," he said. "They're willing to put in the effort to help out." 

Dawson said he hopes that once the project is complete, people know it was put in place by community members volunteering their time.