Photo: Growing a community forest

By Kiruthiha Kulendiren, senior science and policy advisor

It's not often that you get the chance to grow a community forest from scratch, one sapling at a time. But that is exactly what just happened in Brampton, Ontario.

Imagine a patch of green, the length of a soccer field and narrower than a two-lane highway, rampant with garlic mustard and greedy knotweed. Imagine this patch of green next to high-rise apartments and a concrete sports complex, in noxious proximity to strip malls and two major highways.

This is where the David Suzuki Foundation, in partnership with Credit Valley Conservation and thanks to generous support from RONA, gathered nearly 75 multigenerational volunteers (plus three dogs) to reforest a community.

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"These events are about community-building, health, wellness and most important of all, personal connection," says Kiruthiha Kulendiren, senior science and policy advisor with the Foundation's Toronto office. "It's about greening communities in a way that makes their inhabitants smile and breathe easy."

Despite multiple regional and local festivals and a threat of thunderstorms, the volunteers, local residents and community groups came out to plant over 200 native trees, creating a new forest for the community of Ray Lawson Valley. One family, newly arrived in Canada, said that this was their first experience of planting trees without having to watch out for poisonous snakes. A group of local residents who belonged to an international reforestation group from India felt the event connected them to a much bigger and far-reaching family of environmentalists. They even used Force of Nature: the David Suzuki Movie as part of their volunteer training.

Planting trees, according to Kulendiren, is "an ancient act of connection with the environment that defines us all." It's also an opportunity to make friends, build relationships and find belonging, connection and value. And it doesn't stop once the trees are in the ground. "They left a legacy for generations through conscious stewardship, a reminder of how deeply interconnected and dependent we all are on our environment."

This planting event was just one of 19 we have scheduled for the Credit Valley Watershed this year. The Credit Valley is home to more than 750,000 people, a number expected to double by 2020. These plantings will help revitalize the communities around the watershed.

June 25, 2013

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