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Dig in! Celebrate Earth Day in support of Rouge Park

photo by Bob Mansour

On Earth Day, April 22, 10,0000 Trees For The Rouge Valley, a volunteer organization dedicated to restoring natural habitat in the Rouge Valley watershed, will be holding its annual tree planting.  This year marks their eighteenth consecutive year.

            The site that will be planted is in the Bur Oak area, on the northeast corner of the Markham by-pass (now called Donald Cousens Parkway) and 9th Line. 

            The Rouge Park ecosystem is home to a wide variety of plants, birds, mammals, fish, amphibians and reptiles.  Each year 10,000 Trees For The Rouge Valley chooses a site that has been disrupted by urban development, erosion and pollution and sets itself the goal of restoring it and to improving the overall ecological health of the area.

            10,000 Trees is the largest volunteer group of its kind in Canada.  Over the last seventeen years, the group has planted over 125,000 trees and restored 125 acres of land.   With eighteen years of experience, they have the organization of the event down to a science.   Of course, success depends on thorough advance planning, and that begins a year ahead of the planting date.  Fundraising must be carried on because, contrary to what is often thought, all the saplings that are planted have to be purchased.  They are not donated.

            First of all, the site must be studied and decisions made about the type of trees and shrubs best suited to it.  The soil is analysed and the already existing vegetation on the site is observed. 

            A variety of native trees and shrubs are then selected, based on which ones are best suited to the conditions on the site.  Naturally, hardiness is essential.  The ability to produce fruit and nuts is also considered as this will also attract bird and animal life.

            A vegetation plan is then drawn up, laying out where each species is to be planted.


photo by Bob Mansour  

            Habitat structures are also set up, such as hollowed-out trees and old logs that will provide perching, nesting and sheltering spots for wildlife.

            Once the planting is done, the organization continues to maintain the site for three years, after which it should be self-sustaining.

            All the preparatory is done by volunteers.  And, of course, 10,000 Trees rely on volunteers coming out on April 22 to do the actual planting.  No advance registration is required.  You can just arrive and they will put you to work.  Bring a spade.  The planting begins at 9:00 a.m. and, if all goes well, and the weather cooperates (predictions are good for this Sunday), all the saplings should be in the ground by mid-afternoon.  Volunteers can come when they want and stay as long as they want but, of course, the earlier, and the longer, the better.

            In previous years, an average of between 1,200 and 1,500 people have participated in the planting day.  This can include individuals and families.  But it also involves groups such as boy scouts and girl guides.  Groups of employees from a number of commercial companies also contribute to the success of the day.

When you arrive, go first to the Registration Tent from where you will be taken by a planting manager to one of the many locations on the site where a supply of saplings has been placed.  The planting managers will instruct the groups in how to plant the trees and will stay with them until everyone has the hang of it, and then will return to the Registration Tent to pick up a new group of volunteers. 


photo by Bob Mansour

            Hard work builds up an appetite.  Around 11:30 a.m. yet another group of volunteers will put hamburgers on.  So, no one will go hungry. 

            You donít need to be an expert.  You just need to be interested in reforestation and in preserving and enhancing Rouge Park, one of the biggest natural spaces within an urban area in North America

             For more information, contact 10,000 Trees For The Rouge Valley at 905-880-9116 or visit their website at


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