Photo: Creating Canada's first Homegrown National Park

Homegrown National Park Rangers plant Toronto's first canoe garden at Fort York.

Thanks to your support of the David Suzuki Foundation's Homegrown National Park Project, something extraordinary is growing in Toronto's West End. Front yards are turning into veggie gardens. Flowers are blooming in alleyways and potholes. Unloved patches of dirt around schoolyards and parking lots are transforming into butterfly-friendly gardens.

Inspired by the ideas of authors Richard Louv and Douglas Tallamy, the Homegrown project aims to connect residents to nature in their neighbourhoods and inject some much-needed colour into the city's grey palette along the Garrison Creek corridor, where a lost river has flowed through a Victorian sewer beneath the city since the 1880s.

This spring the Foundation recruited 21 Neighbourhood Park Rangers. This enthusiastic team of volunteers is leading by example, hatching projects and spreading the word about the many benefits of adding nature to neighbourhoods. These projects are bringing residents, businesses and institutions together to plant native trees, shrubs and flowers and grow gardens in and on yards, balconies, roofs, streets and alleyways.

While these interventions are adding green to the urban fabric, the project is about more than just beautifying the city, or even making space for the birds, bees and butterflies. It aims to change the way people connect with nature and the city. After a month of the project, it's inspiring to see the Rangers — and the hundreds of residents they've brought on board — engaging with their neighbourhoods, with each other, and even with the city's history, in ways they never have before.

Find out more about the Homegrown National Park Project at

- Jode Roberts

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