Pat Durst – Urban Forest Champion

Pat, a City of Markham resident, first planted with LEAF in 2008 and has since planted again with LEAF in spring 2019. Our Program Manager, Kim De Lallo, interviews Pat about her LEAF experience and her continuing interest in the value of the urban forest.



How did you first become interested in the urban forest?

When I was 11 years old my father bought a cottage on Twelve Mile Bay an inlet of Georgian Bay. I would go to the cottage every summer until I started working and then I spent weekends there with my children and other family members until it was sold 55 years later. 

I was in love with the beauty of our natural environment and when we bought our first home we transplanted a birch tree to our front yard which grew to a gorgeous centrepiece of our garden. Then we moved to a bigger home in a new suburban neighbourhood of Markham. Our first tree plantings were another birch in the front yard and an oak in the backyard. Later we added cedars, an ash tree and my sons gifted me two pear trees for Mother’s Day.


How did you find out about LEAF and how have you been involved?

About eight years ago I discovered a pamphlet on LEAF. Although the City of Markham does a wonderful job of planting boulevard trees in all of its neighbourhoods, I loved the privacy of having trees in my backyard as well as watching the squirrels and birds that frequent my garden. I also live without air conditioning and the shade is an essential part of keeping my house cool. 


Please share an interesting story or memorable moment from your experience with LEAF.

In 2008 LEAF planted two trees for me, a Hackberry and a Kentucky coffee tree. They came out and assessed the backyard, and recommended several species, then shortly after they returned and planted them for me along with two shrubs. As a single senior, I loved the convenience of having someone to consult with, and then to deliver and plant for me.

In 2019 I had to remove an ash tree that was dying. I contacted LEAF again about their program of working with the City of Markham which had a discount for tree planting, plus I was able to apply the York Region Emerald Ash Borer rebate to help defray the costs of planting of new trees to replace the removal of ash trees.  This spring I had a Basswood planted close to where the old ash tree once stood. I am looking forward to watching it grow and bloom in the spring. I have bought basswood honey in the past and I hope this tree will add one more spot for bees to land.


Kim De Lallo is the Program Manager at LEAF.


LEAF offers a subsidized Backyard Tree Planting Program for private property.  The program is supported by The City of Toronto, The Regional Municipality of York, The City of Markham, The Town of Newmarket, The Town of Ajax, Ontario Power Generation and Toronto Hydro. For details on how you can participate, visit