A group of residents in Chelsea, Que., has banded together to purchase 23 hectares of forest in their community.
Last summer, the residents learned a developer was interested in the land and looked at ways to protect the forest.
"I just felt the urgency of that moment," said Calina Ellwand, who has lived in Chelsea for three years and found out about the plan to purchase the land from a neighbour.
"I felt that if we didn't act, if we didn't kind of come together as a community, we'd lose this space and our kids, our grandkids, they'd never know it the way that we have come to know it."
Kids will be running around in this area for generations to come. - Calina Ellwand, Chelsea resident
The forest sits on land near Juniper Road, near Highway 105.
"It's a wildlife corridor. It's a sensitive wetland area," said Ellwand.
"So we really want to protect this forest in perpetuity, forever."
Time was of the essence
Though efforts to raise awareness — and the money — were hindered by the pandemic as residents weren't able to hold town halls, they spread the news the old fashioned way: word of mouth, often when coming across their neighbours in that same forest.
Protecting the area forever came with a deadline. The community had to raise the money by the end of January.
About 180 residents, each giving what they could, raised $850,000 a week ahead of schedule.
"We all did it together," said Carolyn Farquar, who has lived in Chelsea for 30 years.
The group also benefited from a donation of $20,000 from the municipality. The money, which comes from a green fund program, and will be used to cover land transfer taxes, said Lyne Daigle, co-manager of the Chelsea forest project.
While the residents raised the funds to buy the land, the owner will be Action Chelsea for Respect of the Environment (ACRE), an organization that works to protect the ecological integrity of Chelsea.
ACRE will act as a land trust, while community members will create a stewardship committee to manage and care for the land.
"It doesn't belong to any one of us anymore. It belongs to all of us," said Ellwand. "Kids will be running around in this area for generations to come. They won't know our names or faces, but they'll continue to enjoy this as a forest."