If not for the fork in the Thames River where downtown London, Ontario sits, this city of over 360,000 people might not exist. For it was the view of the Fork of the Thames that Lieutenant Governor John Simcoe Graves fell in love with in 1793 when he was scouting for a new site for parliament for Upper Canada. It took until 1826 for London to officially house the new government buildings, but once they were established London proceeded to prosper. In 1840, little London was incorporated as a town. By 1855, that status was relabeled as a city.
All that growth meant that the area changed from extensive hardwood forests to an urban oasis. Industries, government buildings, military strongholds, and the people who came with them changed the landscape extensively. Before long buildings replaced the forests that once dominated the area.
London has a long history of tree lovers though. It didn’t take long for locals to realize the value of trees and they were soon replanted in droves. So much so, that by 1980 a stylized tree became London’s official logo. According to a tree count undertaken by the City of London, there are over 120 species of trees on city owned land, which breaks down to 123,359 street trees on city property and 32,101 trees in managed parks (not including unmanaged natural areas)*. We are not called the Forest City for nothing.
The building boom that has seen the city continue to grow, coupled with insect infestations, like the dreaded emerald ash borer, have changed the face of the Forest City in recent years though. By 2003 people were again concerned about our urban forest and took action to do something about the dwindling tree population. The London Community Foundation and the Urban League of London formed the ReForest City Gateway Project. Not only were 150 trees planted around the city, but another idea was born. In 2005 ReForest London was formed and by 2007 it was incorporated as a non-profit, charitable organization.
ReForest London has come a long way since then. Not only have they spearheaded the Million Tree Challenge, an initiative to plant 1 million trees in London, Ontario over the next ten years, but they support many other programs as well. They organize tree sales, giveaways and plantings in the spring and fall, as well as doing follow-up after-care for areas planted. They train and support neighbourhood tree captains to promote tree care in local neighbourhoods. They train tree teachers to speak to the community. They even encourage schools to green their spaces in a new School Community Tree Challenge program.
ReForest London Goals:
- Empowerment – Empower community groups, businesses, and individuals to plant and care for trees
- Ecosystem Health – Improve London’s environmental health through planting trees and shrubs in natural areas, parks, yards and along streets.
- Education – Educate Londoners about the importance of trees and how to plant and care for them.
Pretty impressive we think.
ReForest London is all about trees and all about London. They want to increase tree numbers and knowledge and have chosen a great place to do that starting this Friday, September 5th, 2014. That’s right, they will be at the Western Fair again this year handing out trees and knowledge to the 200,000 some-odd people who pass through the gates over the 10 days the fair is held. Smiling volunteers will be on hand to answer your questions, encourage people to volunteer themselves for events, and most importantly to get Londoners to plant trees. You will find their booth in the Community Showcase wing of the Progress Building. If you plan on attending the Western Fair between Sept 5 – 14th, make a point of stopping by to say hi and pledge to plant a tree yourself. Help yourself to a native tree seedling and have fun.
Most importantly, plant that tree so that you too can be part of replanting the Forest City! Hope to see you at the fair in support of ReForest London and the Forest City.