Student, staff volunteers get down and dirty for Arbour Day

York’s Green Team swung into action again Thursday, planting trees and native shrubs on the Keele campus to celebrate York’s second Arbour Day this year.

arbour organizersThe afternoon event, which followed a successful outing held in April, was organized by York is U members Katherine Mitchell, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and Soheila Satar, a third-year student in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. The students were assisted by Jeremy Greenberg, coordinator of student alumni programs, and facilities services staff members John Wilson, manager of postal services, and Andrew Wilson (no relation), York’s campus planner. Tony Juric, horticulturalist with York’s grounds and vehicles department, assisted with site preparation and lent his department’s support to the enterprise.

Left: from left, Arbour Day organizers Soheila Satar and Katherine Mitchell

Now in its third year, Arbour Day at York was founded in 2002 by Joy Manalo, then a student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Members of the Green Team, the environmental branch of the York is U student spirit campaign, gathered to learn more about the importance of York’s urban forest and to enhance the grounds of the University.

Andrew Wilson, York’s new campus planner, told participants he is working on the University’s first-ever landscape master plan and wanted to hear from as many members of the community as possible who could help him create a plan that everyone can appreciate. Formerly urban designer and landscape architect at the University of British Columbia, where coastal rain forest defines the campus boundary, Wilson said Ontario’s harsher climate makes it more difficult to maintain an urban forest. “We have an unbelievable heritage in our trees,” said Wilson, who lived on campus in 1987 before many current plantings (and buildings) took root. “There is still no good connection of the Black Creek valley system with York’s campus and I’d like to change that.”

arbour pairRight: from left, Peter Dmytrasz and John Wilson

John Wilson, one of the prime movers of Arbour Day at York and a certified arborist who formerly worked for York’s grounds and vehicles department, noted that much of the western section of the campus that borders on the creek is now covered with native vegetation instead of hybrid grass. “It used to be mowed routinely. Now it’s been naturalized and I think it looks great,” he said.

Peter Dmytrasz, north district supervisor of planning and protection for the City of Toronto’s urban forestry services, spoke on current concerns for trees on and around the Keele campus. He congratulated the Green Team on its efforts and noted there are still several rare native Carolinian species of trees on campus. During the group’s stroll to the planting area, Dmytrasz identified one tree as a rare type that grew in southern Ontario before the last ice age.

steve bccpRight: Steve Joudrey, coordinator, Black Creek Conservation Project

After the official planting of a single ash tree in a new stand of 120 in the area just south of the Arboretum, volunteers and guests tramped down to Hoover Creek and the wooded area known as Saywell forest to plant a selection of native trees and shrubs provided by the Black Creek Conservation Project. The plantings were supervised by Steve Joudrey, project co-ordinator, who thanked the Green Team for its participation in the restoration of that part of the York campus to its natural beauty, as well as helping strengthen the relationship between the project and the University.

Prior to Arbour Day other York environmentalists have worked to “green up” the University’s grounds. Since 1995 more than 11,000 trees have been planted on the Keele and Glendon campuses by volunteers representing students, staff and faculty.


Left: Volunteers from the York is U Green Team