By Jode Roberts
When we began the Homegrown National Park Project in spring 2013 we weren't sure what to expect. We had grand plans to create a green corridor along the former path of Garrison Creek, in the heart of Toronto. We partnered with 14 community groups that were active in the area. We recruited 21 eager volunteers to be our Neighbourhood Park Rangers. And we put the Park Rangers through a training session that instilled in them knowledge and inspiration.
What happened next was extraordinary.
Park Rangers were suddenly everywhere. They attended dozens of community meetings and events, proudly wearing their iconic Homegrown National Park shirts. They networked and organized fun events, like a Birds and the Bees Picnic, hugely popular pizza nights in the park, educational tree tours and an outdoor movie screening.
The Rangers then began to hatch creative plans for greening the corridor's schoolyards, alleys, parks, streets, balconies and yards. Some began experimenting with green interventions, like pothole planters, moss graffiti and canoe gardens. Others aimed for bigger interventions like transforming a parking lot into a green plaza and a schoolyard into a pollinator garden and "parkifying" a residential street.
Most exciting was that the projects almost exclusively drew upon local resources and talents to transform these under-utilized urban spaces into exciting laboratories, translating the project's vision into a physical reality.
In September, the project wrapped with the sunny Homegrown Park Crawl that brought dozens of local musicians, 16 chefs and more than 1,000 residents together for great food and musical parades through four parks along the Homegrown National Park corridor — a joyous and fitting finale to the first season of the project.
So what have we learned? The Homegrown project has demonstrated that by tapping local ingenuity and creative energy, it is possible to transform a neighbourhood, one green intervention at time.
Check out davidsuzuki.org/homegrown to see photos and stories from the project, and stay tuned to see how it grows next year.