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Volunteers Brave Cold to Plant 350 Native Trees at White Oaks Optimist Park

With only a handful of volunteers present at the beginning of Sunday’s tree planting event at White Oaks Optimist Park, ReForest London staff were worried that the event would not succeed. However, shortly after the event began, volunteers arrived in throngs and suddenly there were 55 eager planters braving the cold, wind, and considerable amounts of mud. The event was a huge success in the end thanks to our dedicated volunteers who ended up planting about 350 native trees, and the generous funding from the Government of Ontario, and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

 Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds came together to enjoy the outdoors, have fun with family, friends and colleagues, gather with their community, and help the environment. Heather from Byron, brought her two nephews Liam and Sammy, to join a group of coworkers from KPMG. KPMG organizes a staff planting day with ReForest London at least once a year. The kids were having a great time at their second planting event, having volunteered with Beaver Scouts last year. Liam wanted to place the first tree in the ground and eagerly asked his aunt “Can I put this tree in?” as she was digging the hole. When asked what is important about the event, Heather replied “You get to see a nice tree in the ground and know that you’re helping the community.”

Contributing to the community is the reason many people came to the event on Sunday. Numerous community and work groups joined in the fun, including more than ten students from Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School’s volunteer environmental club. Anna Ryan, 16, and Sarah Rubka, 17, who are both involved in the club were planting for the first time and “really liked it.” “It’s really cool to be out here helping and good to meet new people.” Anna and Sarah agreed that there should be more trees in London and would like to join ReForest London in another planting event soon.

The area planted on Sunday is an extension of the naturalization area that ReForest London staff and volunteers worked on four years ago. The overall result will be a medium sized tract of woodland within the southwestern area of the park, north of Bradley Road. Numerous volunteers on Sunday were involved in the naturalization project in 2010 and enjoyed returning to the site to extend the treed area. Nancy from White Oaks, helped to plant the adjacent site in 2010 and enjoyed it so much that she came back to “say thank you to Earth” and be involved in the “great community event.” She was happy to see the success of the naturalization project and this time she brought her daughter Emma and friend Valeria.

Avid ReForest London supporter, Mark from White Oaks, started volunteering with ReForest London four years ago at the adjacent naturalized area of the park. He now attends all of the planting events he can and is glad to see the success of the planting from four years ago. Mark explains that he “loves trees, they give us beauty and give us peace. I like that the community comes together and I get to meet people. It is a good community event where everyone can bond.” He expresses the need to teach children and says this event is a place where “everyone can catch the germ of environmentalism and help kids to catch the germ too, which will have lasting effects in creating a legacy of environmentalism through the generations.”

Fellow tree lovers loved their trees so much they decided to name them. Five year old Catelyn was at the event with her father Steve from Dorchester and named her tree Leaf. Laughing, Steve told his daughter he would call his tree Free Willy. Catelyn was so excited to be there she brought her own pink shovel and wheelbarrow. Catelyn knew all about trees and how they “give us air, shade, and look nice.”

Some volunteers had the event in their calendars for weeks and some were simply passing by or watching the group from their window on the day and decided to join in the fun. Yasmine Didi and son Ali, who live next to the park, saw the volunteers from their window and, as Yasmine says, “watched for a few minutes and then realized that we should be out there helping.” They donned hats, scarves and jackets and joined the group and ended up “having a great afternoon.” Yasmine “really loves trees, loves nature and being outside.” With a degree in Business Studies and a strong passion for the environment, Yasmine thinks she missed her calling to work in the environmental field, but realizes that “you don’t have to have a career in environmental science to help the Earth. You can do it in your spare time and make a real difference.” Ali was counting the number of trees he planted and by 3pm he had “planted eight trees already and [went] home to tell [his] friends all about it.”

 

Volunteers were encouraged to take a native seedling at the end of the event to plant in their backyard and register their planted tree as one of the million trees planted across the city at milliontrees.ca. Thank you to all the volunteers and ReForest London staff to making Sunday’s tree planting event a great success.

 All Words and images produced by Elise Budden