Photo: Thanks to you, we're growing community forests

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 we did in Brampton, Ontario, this spring.

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 highrise 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 with generous support from RONA, gathered nearly 75 multigenerational volunteers to reforest a community.

"These events are about community-building, health, wellness and most important of all, personal connection," says Kiruthiha Kulendiren, senior science and policy adviser. "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, 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 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 family of environmentalists.

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.

- Glauce Fleury and Kiruthiha Kulendiren

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