ReForest London used the Victoria Day long weekend to kick off a massive residential tree planting program to transform local neighbourhoods with a three-day planting extravaganza.
On May 21, ReForest London volunteers, board members, staff and politicians came together in the White Oaks area to launch a new Neighbourhood ReLeaf program to take tree planting in London neighbourhoods to the next level.
The program builds on a 2015 pilot that saw volunteers go door-to-door in four neighbourhoods, resulting in over 400 new trees planted in yards.
Inspired by the pilot’s success, ReForest London proposed a much-expanded initiative to what was to become the program’s lead funder, the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), which liked the proposal and provided a two-year, $200,000 Grow grant in late 2015.
The program has been made possible thanks to funding from the Ontario government (through OTF), the City of London, and the Richard and Beryl Ivey Fund, a fund within the London Community Foundation.
“With this program, we are going to enable Londoners, no matter what barriers they face, to plant a tree and celebrate our identity as the Forest City,” said Skylar Franke, the program’s coordinator. “We will improve public health through cleaner air and water, increase canopy cover, enhance quality of life for Londoners, increase food security and create, in the face of climate change, a more diverse and resilient urban forest.”
Tree blitzes, according to ReForest London officials will strengthen neighbourhood connections, while improving health, well-being and quality of life across the Forest City.
Through this program, over the next two years ReForest London and its volunteers will:
- Go door-to-door to 20,000 homes to offer them a free tree through 28 Tree Blitz events in London’s least leafy neighbourhoods;
- Hold 28 Tree Depot events (two in each of London’s 14 wards) to give away 5,600 free trees to residents; and
- Undertake a new level of outreach specifically aimed at apartment dwellers and new Canadians, inviting and encouraging them to participate in a special series of park plantings in 2017.
In total, the program will plant 16,000 new trees (both native and fruit) in yards and parks, and grow and distribute another 19,000 seedlings with schools and other community groups.
With 28 door-to-door events planned over the next two years, Amber Cantell, director of programs at ReForest London, encouraged any businesses or community groups interested in sending a team to get in touch.
“This is a great way to get out into the community and show you care,” Cantell said. “With this program, we are going to take tree planting to the next level here in London, and show the rest of Canada exactly what it means to be a part of the Forest City.”
All trees planted through the project are in support of London’s Million Tree Challenge (www.milliontrees.ca), through which Londoners are working together to plant a million trees in our city to improve environmental and human health and create a legacy for future generations.
“One of the things about the Million Tree Challenge is that it is really driving us to explore new ways to get trees out into our community,” said Frank Pyka, vice-chair of ReForest London’s board of directors. “ReForest London has done a great deal of work with volunteers in parks and schoolyards, but we’ve rarely focused on people’s yards, even though we know it’s where much of the plantable space is in London.”
For more information visit http://reforestlondon.ca/neighbourhood-releaf-program.