From the Ground up: How McCormick Park’s Beautiful Forests came to life

Project: Park Naturalization
Year: 2013
Season: Fall

Over fifty eager volunteers gathered at London’s McCormick Park on Sunday October 6th to participate in the ongoing naturalization project in the northeast London green space. Thanks to generous funding from Equal Action, London Life, and Environment Canada and the hard work of the ReForest London team and their enthusiastic group of volunteers, four hundred and fifty new trees were planted in McCormick Park. Though it’s difficult to picture exactly what these small trees will mean for the space, seeing the beautiful mature trees surrounding the planting sites one can imagine the lush and colourful forest of the future Park. 

The day began with a brief lesson in tree planting from ReForest London’s seasoned pros Amber Cantell and the green caped crusader herself, Louise Hollingsworth. Onlookers, big and small, learned the basics of tree planting and before long were wrist deep in dirt. 

Some volunteers were new to the cause, like local resident Pat and his two sons. For Pat, this particular project really hits home,

We live right here and we walk through this park every night and we think it’s just a great idea to be a part of giving back. 

Others have been involved with ReForest London for years. Joel has been helping out at tree plantings for about three years now, bringing along his sons James and Paul to share in the experience, “It’s important to make sure we replant the trees that make up the city.  It’s important for the environment and it’s a great opportunity to teach the kids about volunteering.  [ReForest London] is a great community to become involved in. It only takes about three hours a week in the Spring and the Fall… it’s a great cause for the environment and the city.”

To the East of the first planting site lies another site with trees planted back in the Spring of 2013 which provided a perfect opportunity for some planters, like Lisa and her son Eli, to see the value of all their hard work. “There’s just a really big sense of satisfaction that comes from planting trees and last Spring my family helped plant the trees over there and we’re able to come back a few months later and see that they’re more than twice the size that they were just a few months ago. So you really feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

Many volunteers brought along some little tree planters with them to help out and have some fun learning about the environment.  The kids’ excitement and willingness to give back bodes well for the future of the Forest city, but it’s one little planter’s dedication to the cause that was particularly inspiring. When Grace Ella saw a flyer at the library for a tree planting on October 6th she instantly knew how she’d be celebrating her fifth birthday. Her father, who had taken her along to another tree planting earlier in the year, was surprised that this was how Grace Ella preferred to celebrate instead of the party and bouncy castle he was expecting. When he asked her again if she was sure she’d like to plant trees she quickly responded, “Do you like to breathe Dad?  And do you know how many families of birds and squirrels live in trees?” With a shiny tiara on her head and a group of girls by her side, Grace Ella got to be queen of McCormick Park on her special day and was rewarded at the end with a birthday serenade by the group and her very own tree to plant in her backyard.

Overall, the day was a major success with 450 new trees planted for future generations of Londoners to enjoy.  Though the forecast called for rain, it turned out to be a beautiful October day full of smiling faces and rich fall smells and colours. 

To get in on the fun and enjoy the rewarding feeling that comes with giving back to your environment, be sure to attend the next tree planting scheduled for Saturday October 12th at Helen Mott Shaw Park from 2:00-4:00pm. Bring along the whole family and celebrate Thanksgiving this year by showing your gratitude for your city and its beautiful trees.

All Text and Photos Produced by our Volunteer Event Reporter Julie Kiser