Youth Working to Grow Toronto’s Urban Forest

This summer, 13 youths (ages 18 to 29), who are aspiring professionals in the field of urban forestry and arboriculture, are working with local community groups to help green two Toronto neighbourhoods and foster a sense of stewardship for urban trees!


The Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL) Program has had over 40 individuals graduate since its inception in 2015. Now, in its fifth year, this program has been refined into a five-month training and mentorship opportunity at no cost to the participants. The youth learn valuable hands-on skills, technical tree knowledge, community outreach strategies and have the chance to network with professionals. While under the mentorship of LEAF staff, participants use their newly gained skills and knowledge to plan and lead a tree tour, tree care demonstration activity, shrub giveaway and help support local community groups in their efforts to improve the local canopy.


This year, the 13 youth have focused their work in the communities of Bloordale and Brockton (in partnership with the Botanicus Art Ensemble and the Bloordale Adopt-a-Street Tree Project) and the neighbourhood The Pocket (in partnership with The Pocket Community Association). The goals of the program this year are to:



  • Raise awareness of the connections between urban wildlife and the urban forest
  • Encourage planting on private property through a $100 rebate for the LEAF Backyard Tree Planting Program and through native shrub giveaways
  • Provide care to existing trees though stewardship initiatives.





The 2019 Young Urban Forest Leaders program started in April. To date, participants have:


  1. Completed the multi-day Tree Tenders Volunteer Training course in order to gain knowledge in tree biology, common urban stressors, proper tree care techniques and Toronto’s tree by-laws.
  2. Participated in 12 workshops under the instruction of LEAF and other community leaders and professional mentors in a variety of topics, including: engagement strategies, tree inventory work, how to plan a public event and careers in urban forestry and arboriculture.
  3. Facilitated stewardship events at three Toronto parks where they engaged local community, demonstrated proper tree care techniques (mulching and watering) and gave away native shrubs.  These events served to spark interest in the benefits of planting native species and provide care for existing park trees.
  4. Canvassed door-to-door in order to connect directly with property owners in their target neighbourhoods.



Now in the final month of the program, the participants are working hard to prepare and lead a public event in each community. Using the knowledge they have gained throughout the summer, the youth are leading their very own tree tour! The goal is to highlight notable species while teaching identification tips and the significant role that trees have had in shaping our environment. A free native shrub giveaway will follow the tour!


As part of the program conclusion, the participants will be providing an Urban Forest Stewardship Action Plan (UFSAP) to each community group. The report will serve as a framework for the community groups to continue the amazing work that has been started this summer. Through creating the UFSAP, the youth will be able to develop and strengthen a number of skills such as research, education and communication related to planting considerations, tree stewardship and event planning.



Interested in learning more about Toronto’s trees, supporting these youths and getting your own free native shrub? Join one of the events!




Lam Tran is the Education Coordinator at LEAF. She holds a Master of Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto.


Young Urban Forest Leaders Program is offered by LEAF in collaboration with Park People and is supported by funds from Every Tree Counts, a partnership between Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation and the City of Toronto.


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