Reposted from original article in the Stock Journal

A volunteer callout looking for people to help revegetate fire-affected properties across the Adelaide Hills has turned into a mass collaborative venture, with more than 25,000 plants and seedlings grown and divvied up between nearly 170 properties across the fire scar.

At the start of the year, the Habitat Recovery Alliance was formed, aiming to support habitat recovery within the bushfire scar through the collaboration of the Upper River Torrens Landcare Group and seven other local community groups.

The request for volunteers to help with a seed-growing program left HRA co-coordinator Stephen Anderson with a “good problem” – how to make the most of the 797 people who responded to the call, from as far north as Port Pirie, and as far south as Naracoorte.

“We put the call out on Saturday morning and by Monday morning, we had 500 responses in our inbox,” Stephen said.

“We thought ‘do we do nothing, do we tell people we could only accommodate 50 people, or do we see if we can do something to involve as many people as possible, and so we came up with the idea of running workshops.”

The highlight for me is seeing people be able to make valuable and worthwhile contributions to the recovery effort.

Across February and March, the HRA worked together to build an “adopt a box” scheme and facilitate workshops on Saturdays at Mount Pleasant, which involved the sowing of seeds supplied from the collaborating community groups, pricking out seedlings, and transplanting them from seed trays into tubes.

All up, about 250 volunteers produced a total of 17,000 seedlings, made up of 42 plant species. Further donations took the total number of plants to 25,000.

The HRA received two grants – a Landcare Australia Bushfire Recovery Grant and a Lockheed Martin Landcare Grant – to assist a total of 13 properties, which received about 7000 of the plants, as well as 45 wildlife nestboxes. The remaining 18,000 plants were advertised on EventBrite, with about 150 people applying and each receiving 100 plants.

Planting on the 13 grant-supported properties began in mid-June and has nearly finished, with HRA co-coordinator Kim Thompson saying the community effort through the project had been “like bees to honey”.

“We have this tangible, useful, worthwhile project and everyone is attracted to it. People are still ringing asking how they can help,” she said.

“The energy from this is what keeps us going, we want and love that connectivity.”

WHILE the main benefit of the Habitat Recovery Alliance revegetation effort has been the revegetation itself, HRA co-coordinator Kim Thompson said the ability of people to come together to help out had been “overwhelming”.

“The highlight for me is seeing people be able to make valuable and worthwhile contributions to the recovery effort,” she said.

“It’s not just about donating money – being able to bring all these people along for the ride just blows my mind.”

The HRA anticipates the recovery project will continue for the next three years, helping out in whatever way possible, wherever there is demand.

The support from all different groups, by so many people who were fire-affected themselves, has just been enormous.

The group has received a $20,000 Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service grant, which will be used to support four properties as a corridor to connect existing vegetation in a conservation park at Cudlee Creek.

“We didn’t really know how this project was going to go, or where it was going to end, but now we have a little more vision and strategy,” Kim said.

Not all the volunteers who responded to the original callout were able to attend the workshops, or be involved in the revegetation efforts so far, but Kim said all those who initially responded are kept up-to-date with the group’s progress, and may be called upon in the next few years as the project continues to roll out.

On Saturday, planting was underway at Lucy Cahill’s property, Hillander, Lobethal, where 1200 trees were planted as part of the HRA project.

Ms Cahill, who is a member of the Cudlee Creek Fire Garden Revival Group herself, said the constant volunteer support through the project had helped her to understand the power of community.

“The support from all different groups, by so many people who were fire-affected themselves, has just been enormous,” she said.