The weather gods smiled upon us on Sunday as Becca, Lam, and myself guided our eager guests on an interactive tour through the multiuse Chester Le Park. The chance of a thunderstorm had kept us on edge all week, as rescheduling our launch would mean another hurdle on top of the many nail-biting moments we faced in the two weeks leading up to the event. Awakening to a sunny sky Sunday morning meant one thing: it was go time.
Our theme was unique but familiar. Inspired by the classic came of Clue™, we took our guests on an investigative tour of the park’s resident trees. Our goal was to introduce the different tree species within the park and to uncover the different factors that could be a source of stress for the trees by looking for - you guessed it - clues.
Our guests were divided into groups and given signs that were beautifully handcrafted by Lam. Each sign contained the stressors we would encounter, such as physical damage and infestation, and the different clues that are used to identify them. We were lucky to have a confident bunch of guests that not only participated but also were curious enough to get up close and personal with trees to look for clues.
I began the tour with an eastern redbud that was a little sensitive to the local climate. I sprinkled my tree presentations with fun, peculiar facts that could easily stick in the minds of our participants. If someone walked away only remembering that a Japanese katsura tree’s leaves smelled like burnt brown sugar in the fall, I would be more than satisfied.
Becca’s biological knowledge and knack for quirky historical facts was evident as she spoke about the Freeman maple and Russian olive. Her natural vibe somehow made us feel as if she were talking to each of us individually.
Lam effortlessly and confidently spoke about her trees, which included a white spruce and green ash, convincing us all that being an environmental educator was second nature to her.
The tour ended with a watering and mulching demonstration, which allowed our guests to help out our thirsty tree friends. Afterwards, Obaida and Andrew, two members of our local partner group, Agincourt Community Services, led a tour of the lush community garden, where everyone was offered a taste of some fresh Afghan leek.
The event wrapped up with some cool, tasty treats and as the last guests wandered off, we were happy knowing that we had found caring stewardsfor some of the trees in our park. Just four months earlier, we three Young Urban Forest Leaders stood in an unfamiliar park wondering how our Adopt-a-Park-Tree project would unfold; after months of effort and fantastic community involvement, we could not be more fulfilled!
Jess Wilkin is a participant in LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders program.
Photographs by David Slaughter and Erin MacDonald.
The Young Urban Forest Leaders and Adopt-a-Park-Tree programs are supported by the City of Toronto.