Young Urban Forest Leaders
Training Tomorrow's Urban Forest Leaders
The Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL) Program is a free training and mentorship program designed to provide valuable experience in the fields of arboriculture, urban forestry and community engagement. The program also seeks to support Toronto youth from underrepresented groups within arboriculture and urban forestry including (but not limited to) women, non-binary people, Indigenous peoples, newcomers, 2SLGBTQ+ persons and racialized individuals.
This four-month, program will provide participants with tangible skills, the chance to build connections in their communities, mentorship from LEAF staff, as well as guest lectures and networking opportunities with urban forest leaders and experts. Workshops will be a mix of remote learning and in-person activities.
Participants will work to grow the urban forest across Toronto communities by:
- Identifying opportunities for planting and stewardship initiatives in their own neighbourhoods
- Engaging the public through interactive, online activities and events
- Promoting the importance of native tree and shrub planting through targeted outreach
The Young Urban Forest Leaders Program is funded in part by a City of Toronto Urban Forestry Grant and the Canadian TREE Fund.
Young Urban Forest Leaders Initiatives
Recognizing the benefits of remote and in-person learning, the program will provide a mixture of virtual sessions and follow up activities that take place in the community. This structure will provide opportunities for the Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL) to learn at home and apply newfound skills in the real world in an independent or optional group setting.
Building Urban Forest Resilience
Through promoting native species planting and the LEAF native shrub giveaway, the YUFL participants will be building urban forest resilience in their communities.
Utilizing their knowledge and skills gained through the course of the program, the YUFL participants will work in teams to develop and deliver a four-part educational series. The series will center on trees found in the Greater Toronto Area and focus on topics such as tree identification, historical and cultural significance and biodiversity.
After an overwhelmingly successful switch to a remote format last year, we hosted the program virtually again in 2021. We engaged 21 Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFLs) from across Toronto, each making an impact in the urban forest in their own communities!
Growing the Urban Forest
YUFL participants helped grow the urban forest in their communities by promoting the LEAF native shrub giveaway. Through community outreach to residents, leaders and local city councillors, YUFLs facilitated greening by promoting the giveaway of 300 native shrubs for planting on private property.
Drawing on the skills they developed over the course of the program, YUFLs curated and delivered a series of four educational webinars that ran from August 10th to 19th. The series highlighted tree identification, common urban stressors, and the historical significance of tree species, while working to encourage community members to take action and connecting them with available resources.
To ensure the health and safety of program participants, we moved the program entirely online. With tremendous interest for the remote program, we increased the size of the cohort from 12 to 19 Young Urban Forest Leaders (YUFL).
The YUFLs worked within their own communities across the city to spark awareness and engage neighbours to grow and care for the urban forest. Each YUFL applied the skills they learned in the program to assess local tree canopy composition and tree health. This assessment helped to identify priorities for tree planting and stewardship.
The YUFLs promoted the importance of native species and #BackyardBiodiversity, encouraging residents to plant more native species through the Backyard Tree Planting program and through a special free native shrub distribution program.
All their hard work culminated in a four-part educational webinar series that ran from September 1st to 10th that discussed the trees found in the Greater Toronto Area, the vital role these trees play in an urban landscape, the stress they face and what can be done to care for them.
A team of six Young Urban Forest Leaders collaborated with local community groups to help green the Bloordale and Brockton neighbourhoods. The Bloordale Community Improvement Association and the Botanicus Art Ensemble came together with the YUFL team to spark awareness and engage neighbours in improving the local urban forest.
The YUFLs helped local residents plant more native trees and shrubs through planting incentives and giveaways, promoted Backyard Biodiversity and the benefits of native species for wildlife through habitat creation, and helped revitalize the existing Adopt-a-Street Tree program at Bloordale.
Their hard work culminated in a tree tour through the community. Learn more about tricks to tell some species apart and the beauty of bringing a community together in their blog.
The Bloordale Community Improvement Association and the Bloordale BIA initiated the Bloordale Adopt-a-Street-Tree project in 2016. Since then, the 50 newly planted trees between Dufferin and Lansdowne have been cared for by local businesses and residents so that each tree thrives.
The Botanicus Art Ensemble is a community arts organization based out of the MacGregor Playground Park. They bring professional artists and gardeners together with community members with the goal of fostering creative expression and the exchange of ideas. They also seek to enhance the enjoyment of public spaces and the connection with nature in the urban environment.
A team of seven Young Urban Forest Leaders supported The Pocket Community Association in efforts to revitalize engagement in environmental initiatives in the neighbourhood.
The YUFLs helped local residents plant more native trees and shrubs through planting incentives and giveaways, promoted Backyard Biodiversity and the benefits of native species for wildlife through habitat creation, and engaged with the community on tree stewardship initiatives in Phin Park.
Their hard work culminated in a tree tour through Phin Park. Learn more about some interesting facts of common Toronto trees in their blog.
The Pocket community is tucked between the Greenwood TTC yard and CN train tracks. A key feature and the heart of the neighbourhood is Phin Park, a small park that is a favourite hub for families in the area.
The Pocket Community Association has been active for over 12 years. During its time, the association has undertaken various projects to engage with residents and green the community. Most notably,100 front yard trees and 35 park trees were planted as part of The Pocket Tree Project a few years ago. The YUFL Program will re-energize interest in planting and caring for native trees and shrubs to promote biodiverse spaces for urban wildlife!
Five of our Young Urban Forest Leaders supported the Friends of Centennial Park to establish a new Adopt-a-Park-Tree project. Learn more about the work they undertook in order to help launch the program in Centennial Park in their blog.
Centennial Park is one of Toronto’s busiest parks and is the second largest in the City at 525 acres. In 2014, approximately 450 trees were removed from the park due to Emerald Ash Borer.
Friends of Centennial Park, in partnership with Our Place Initiative, works with the local community, advocating for improvements to the park to increase everyone's enjoyment of this wonderful space. They have been working on tree planting initiatives to help increase the tree canopy, and now, the Friends of Centennial Park are developing an Adopt-a-Park-Tree project that will foster stewardship for years to come.
Four of our Young Urban Forest Leaders supported the Friends of Guild Park to establish a new Adopt-a-Park-Tree project. To launch the project, a tree tour and mulching event was held in Guild Park. Learn more about the event in their blog.
Guild Park is 36 hectares, located on the geologically significant landform of the Scarborough Bluffs. It’s located within the transition life zone between the Southern and Great Lake-St. Lawrence Forest systems, characterized by both the coniferous trees of the northern Boreal forest mixed with deciduous trees.
Since 2013, the Friends of Guild Park have been working to increase the awareness and appreciation of Guild Park & Gardens as a spectacular and sustainable public destination, where art meets nature. The park was formerly the site of an artist colony and is notable for its collection of relics, saved from the demolition of buildings primarily in downtown Toronto, arranged akin to ancient ruins.
Trinity Bellwoods Park
Nestled in the heart of downtown Toronto, this popular park was the first in the city to launch an Adopt-a-Park-Tree program in 2006.
However, with 90 new trees and changes in program coordination, the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods was seeking support to revitalize their Adopt-a-Park-Tree program. This year, four of our Young Urban Forest Leaders helped Friends of Trinity Bellwoods incorporate the new trees into the long-standing Adopt-a-Park-Tree program. Learn more about the interactive activity the team organized during the tree tour and mulching event in their blog.
The park was fully renovated in 2015 and 2016. Several mature trees were removed and 41 new trees have been planted. the Friends of Berczy Park, with the support of the Young Urban Forest Leaders, are taking action to nurture these young trees to survive the vulnerable first years of life and to recreate the cherished tree canopy in this busy urban park.
Four of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the P.I.N.E Project to provide an estimated 90 new trees that are anticipated for planting this fall along the beautiful Humber River edge with some TLC. Learn more about how the community came together to learn about and help provide mulch for the trees in their blog.
The P.I.N.E Project delivers wilderness programs in Etienne Brule and King’s Mill parks nearly year-round, running a community outdoor school with approximately 250 participants and several summer programs that serve approximately 700 participants. Their programs connect children with the natural world through outdoor programming in all weather, teaching them about their natural surroundings and developing bushcraft skills. The Young Urban Forest Leaders will trains staff and participants on how to care for newly planted park to ensure they thrive.
Four of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the Friends of Stephenson Park to help kickstart a new tree stewardship project that will support the establishment of about 30 newly planted trees. Learn more about the tree tour and how campers came together to provide some TLC for the trees in their blog.
Stephenson Park is loved and well-used by the local community, with a busy splash pool and baseball diamond. In 2016, many of the trees suffered in the extreme drought. The Young Urban Forest Leaders are working to help raise awareness of the importance of our trees and increase the community's commitment to care for them.
Three of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the Friends of Chester Le Park and Agincourt Community Services Association to develop an Adopt-a-Park-Tree program in Chester Le Park for over 40 new trees planted in 2014. Learn more about some common trees planted in the park and game they incorporated in this blog.
Chester Le Park features a children playground, a large open green space and beautiful trees on the edges of the park as well as a vibrant community garden.
Five of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the Friends of Christie Pits Park to develop an Adopt-a-Park-Tree program. The park currently has over 20 young trees and in the fall of 2016, 76 new trees will be planted by the City to replace the loss of many mature ash trees due to Emerald Ash Borer. Learn more about how they engaged the community and brought people together to provide some TLC in their blog.
The Friends of Christie Pits have been active for more than ten years, hosting community pizza nights, park clean ups, walking tours and many festivals and musical events.
Four of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the TRCA to develop an Adopt-a--Tree program on the newly revitalized grounds of the San Romanoway towers at Jane and Finch.
As part of the San Romanoway Towers Revival Project, the property has new gardens, a naturalized site and an urban orchard along with nearly 40 newly planted trees.
In 2015, three of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with the Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association Tree Team to develop an Adopt-a-Park-Tree program in Fairmount Park. Learn more about each YUFL’s experience and takeaway from the program in their blog.
The Beach Hill Neighbourhood Association Tree Team came together in March 2013. Since then, the Tree Team has met at least once a month to plan events that engage and educate Beach Hill residents. Projects have included developing tree care handouts, distributing free mulch for residents' trees and creating an urban forest management plan with help from University of Toronto students.
In 2015, three of LEAF’s Young Urban Forest Leaders worked with Friends of Regent Park and Cabbagetown ReLeaf to develop an Adopt-a-Park-Tree program in Regent Park. Learn more about the YUFL’s tree tour and how the community came together to care for the young trees in their blog.
Friends of Regent Park, established in August 2014, is a group of local residents and other stakeholders who are interested in the prosperity, benefits and use of the new community park and other green spaces in Regent Park. Their goal is to animate the space and advocate for: sustainability and preservation; positive food security, increased health and wellness; inclusivity; share and play opportunities; and, the utilization of new technologies.
The group is currently being incubated at CRC and has taken on events such as Regent Park’s first WinterFest, the official launch the community bake oven during their summer Party in the Park event, helping out with the Taste of Regent Park event and hosting this year’s Sunday in the Park.
Cabbagetown ReLEAF is a non-profit, volunteer driven organization working in the communities of Cabbagetown, Regent Park and St. James Town. Their mission is to promote a larger, healthier urban forest as part of our green infrastructure through community planting, tree protection, tree care, education, and advocacy.
Become a Young Urban Forest Leader
Become a Young Urban Forest Leader!
This innovative program is supporting the next wave of environmental leaders in their growth! The goal of the program is to provide valuable experience in the fields of arboriculture, urban forestry and community engagement.
Key Activities Include:
- Completing the LEAF Tree Tenders Volunteer Tree Training Program - 15 hours of online arboriculture training led by local professionals
- Participating in online skill-building workshops and mentored-activities - meetings take place weekly on Tuesday evenings from May through August
- Working to improve the tree canopy in their communities. This includes assessing the existing canopy, identifying opportunities for tree planting and stewardship and holding online community events that engage local residents, all with guidance and support from LEAF. Activities/events include:
- Online outreach
- Educational webinar series and live Q&As
- Participating in peer-feedback, career-planning sessions and professional development and networking events
The Benefit to Participants:
- Gain hard and soft skills in arboriculture, urban forestry and community engagement to prepare for employment and/or post-secondary education
- Skills include tree biology, identification, planting, mulching, understanding Toronto's tree bylaws and threats to the urban forest, leadership and teamwork, public speaking, visual communication and virtual outreach
- Meet industry professionals and explore various career paths
- Receive a certificate of completion
- Contribute to increased appreciation of the urban forest
- Build meaningful connections with other passionate young people
- Be between the ages of 18 and 29
- Be a resident of the City of Toronto
- Be able to commit up to 5 hours per week. Meetings occur weekly on Tuesday evenings from May through August
- Be available to attend LEAF’s Tree Tenders Training (15 hours of online arboriculture training led by local professionals). The course will take place in May over four evenings and one weekend - Each of the five classes is mandatory
- Have an interest in arboriculture, urban forestry and/or environmental community engagement
Priority will be given to applicants from underrepresented groups within arboriculture and urban forestry with a need to participate in a fully-funded training program.