Article by Kiruthiha Kulendiren, Senior Science & Policy Advisor (Ontario & Northern Canada), David Suzuki Foundation.

In 2012, with the support of RONA and in collaboration with Friends of the Rouge Watershed, the David Suzuki Foundation helped reforest parts of the future Rouge National Urban Park on the eastern side of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This year, the program takes place in the Credit River Watershed in western GTA, with the support of Credit Valley Conservation.

On a spring day in what will soon become Rouge National Urban Park, I watched a child plant a sapling. Gently, with great care, he held the root ball. His hair was sprinkled with a liberal dusting of dirt, and tell-tale smudges on his clothes, face and arms spoke of an intimate experience with nature. He bent low, patting down the dirt. He planted a kiss on a fledgling leaf, stood and walked away to his mother.

That child had just helped reforest his urban community.

The words “urban reforestation” might sound clinical, divorced of emotion and focused on quantity, location and timelines. But the reality is so very different. It is all about community building, health, wellness and most important of all, personal connection. The very act of planting — trusting that life will grow — is an ancient act of connection with the environment that defines us all.

The boy and his family came out to plant. They spent time in nature and volunteered. But so much more was happening: they were making friends, building relationships, finding belonging, connection and value. They left a legacy for generations through conscious stewardship, a reminder of how deeply interconnected and dependent we all are on our environment.

Urban reforestation is not just about trees and plants in the ground. It is about realising that we have lost so much of what we assumed was safe: canopy cover, clean water, fresh air and green spaces for children to explore and connect with. It is about reclaiming nature, community and future generations’ right to steward and protect their greenspace. It is about greening communities in a way that makes their inhabitants smile and breathe easy.

Credit Valley Conservation will be at the Green Living Show in Toronto from April 12-14 with the David Suzuki Foundation and RONA. Drop by Booth #725 to learn how you can take part in our urban reforestation programs.

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