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Creating the world’s first Homegrown National Park in T.O.

Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014, 11:18 AM - Maybe you've noticed the garden canoes. Or perhaps you've scored some milkweed for your yard to encourage the monarch butterfly migration through the city.

These are just some of the many green interventions by the Homegrown Park Rangers, a group of over 40 volunteers who are creatively spreading the word about the benefits of adding nature to neighbourhoods.

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And leave it to these guys to host a parading Park Crawl from Christie Pits to Trinity Bellwoods Parks in the downtown’s west end. Earlier this month, over 1,000 Torontonians gathered at the green spaces along the former path of the Garrison Creek, a river now covered in asphalt, to celebrate the ambitious plan by the David Suzuki Foundation to establish the world’s first Homegrown National Park.

What began as an abstract notion in spring 2013 has turned into 15 greenifying community-based projects conceived by people who live, work or play along the former creek, explains Jode Roberts, the Homegrown National Park Project Lead.

“We started crowd sourcing green actions that over time would accumulate into this green ribbon or corridor through the city that we can call the Homegrown National Park,” Roberts says.

Using the legacy of the Garrison Creek, the Park Rangers have worked with over 20 partner groups to inspire Torontonians to naturalize their neighbourhoods. The canoes are a nod to the old river once paddle-able from Fort York to Bathurst Station, but filled with native plants, these mini-gardens are creating much needed habitat for the urban bird, bee and butterfly.

Here is the original call for support. There are now 10 canoes in parks and schools in the city:

Community Canoe video from Aidan Dahlin Nolan on Vimeo.

But the grassroots initiatives are not just in public spaces.

“One of the aims of the project is to not to focus exclusively on parks but on creating more green space in front yards, backyards and balconies,” explains Roberts.

The past spring’s Got Milkweed campaign urged private property owners to create more pollinator-friendly yards to assist with the monarch butterfly migration. Much of their habitat has been eradicated in North American through development and pesticide use.

In just two weeks, 1,000 households added this plant in yards, balconies and rooftops. Another version of the campaign is planned for next spring.

Why is it important?

In 2015 new Park Ranger recruits will continue the mission of bringing more nature to Toronto. Currently, these greening activities are sprouting up in areas from Eglinton Avenue to the waterfront between Keele Street and University Avenue but keep your eyes out for plans to expand to other hydro and road corridors (and the green spaces between them) across the entire city.

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