Volunteer Spotlight – June 2023

Name: Michael Kirkland
Volunteer Since: 2023
Roles: Community Tree Specialist, Planting Leader, Tree Planter

Why do I volunteer with ReForest London?

The simple short answer is that there is nothing you can do as an individual that has more long-lasting impact on the environment of your present and future community than planting a tree.

The complicated and more interesting answer is that from an early age, I have loved art, architecture and design. I also love automobiles, science fiction, alternative music and travel. But above all else, trees.

I must have come by this naturally.

My father planted trees in Northern Ontario when he was a young man.

My grandfather planted a small grove of walnut trees in his backyard.

My uncle was once a steward with Elgin County and spent years naturalizing his 25 acre ravine property along Catfish Creek.

So I must have come by this naturally.

My family was originally from Ontario, but I was born in Nova Scotia because my father was an Electrical and Communications Technician in the Royal Canadian Navy. When he left the forces for a civilian career we moved to Montreal, but after a brief bit of training, he was sent back to the East Coast as an engineer to support the flight simulators at CFB Greenwood.

From age 5 to 15 we lived in the Annapolis Valley near the Greenwood airforce base. Whether by accident or design, we always lived in a house that backed onto fields, pasture, streams or woods. It was my playground and I spent most of my youth exploring it. By age ten I could identify most species of trees in the area.

After briefly relocating back to Montreal, my family finally moved back to Ontario when I was in my late teens. Post-secondary education led to new friends. Jobs led to new freedom. It didn’t take long to discover the Bruce Peninsula, for its camping, hiking, and SCUBA diving opportunities

Eventually, I settled down, got married, and had kids. When looking for a new house, we were lucky enough to find a property that backed onto the south branch of the Thames River. It reminded me of all the places I lived when I was growing up.

It was almost perfect, missing only one thing.


I have spent the past 28 years planting examples of Carolinian trees, either on our own property or in the field behind our house. In addition, I have helped with the Million Tree challenge, planting trees along Veterans Highway and in parks around the city.

When I retired, I wanted to do something that both interested me and would be of benefit to the greater community. ReForest London seemed a natural fit.

What is a fond memory?

I was not sure what to expect when I arrived for my first tree-planting experience.

As I mentioned, I have been planting trees for decades already. I already had lots of experience planting trees. What I was lacking was more knowledge about what to plant and where. I thought getting involved with ReForest London and meeting like-minded people would be both socially and educationally rewarding.

I have not been disappointed. Everyone I have met so far has been very welcoming and accepting. I remember swapping stories with some of the staff about work experiences, and I mentioned that as a leader it is important to remember never to ask someone to do a task that you would not do yourself.

I have helped with tree giveaways, plantings, and unloading at the RFL offices, but what I remember best is being asked to go water the trees one hot Friday, because all the other staff had the day off.

I said of course.

What excites you most about working with trees OR in the environmental sector?

As I said earlier, there is nothing you can do as an individual that has a more long-lasting impact on the environment of your community than planting a tree. When you plant a tree, it is not for you. It is for generations of people you will likely never meet. It is a gift to the future.

Which part of the volunteer experience do you enjoy the most and why?

I think I like the tree giveaways best. The chance to talk with tree recipients (treecipients?) and find out more about why they want a tree and where they want to place it, and give them some guidance about what would be best suited to their site or needs. The folks who understand that this is not something they are doing for themselves, or the next generation, but for people they will never meet decades from now. That is the most rewarding.

Thank you Michael!