A Homegrown National Park in Toronto?

No, I don’t mean the Downsview National Park in North York, long ago promised by Jean Chretien, which has languished on the vine. Nor the east-end Rouge River National Park more recently promised by Stephen Harper. I am referring to the vibrant and venerable Christie Pits park in the downtown west end of Toronto, designated  by the David Suzuki Foundation as a part of the world’s first  “Homegrown National Park.”  Inspired by authors Richard Louv and Douglas Tallamy, the Foundation is striving to  foster a green corridor running along the former Garrison Creek.  

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Last Sunday, on a glorious sunny autumn day, volunteer Homegrown Rangers hosted a Homegrown Park Crawl which drew hundreds, including many, many families with children, to a splendid community celebration featuring music by local musicians, great food provided by local restaurants and cafes, and a host of eco-activities. What a lovely event it was!! I have lived in the general area for more than thirty-seven years and it took this event to bring me into the heart of Christie Pits for the first time. I had no idea I would find a flourishing community garden there that is clearly well-tended by the locals. Or a beautiful old canoe overflowing with plants, another project of the Homegrown National Park. This was precisely the purpose of the celebration; to get people to reconnect with and foster the green spaces which are their local parks, recognizing that all parks are part of our national park system.

Led by various musical groups including the six-piece Heavyweights Brass Band, the Afro-Brazilian troupe Maraca Tall, and the percussion Samba Squad, the Park Crawl went through several parks found along the former Garrison Creek. From Christie Pits, the throng marched south to Bickford Park north of Harbord, then to Fred Hamilton Park on Shaw, and finally to Trinity Bellwoods Park north of Queen Street. At each place, there were eco-activity themes. At Christie Pits, the theme was butterflies. Children and adults made paper Monarch butterflies and carried them on their migration to Trinity Bellwoods. At Bickford, the theme was birds; at Fred Hamilton, bees and honey-tasting, and at Trinity Bellwoods, trees.  It was a sparkling event, climaxed by a visit from David Suzuki who told the crowd about the Foundation’s cross-country Blue Dot Tour. Do you know about that? I didn’t either. More on that in another post.

I came home jubilant. In an era when environmental groups are under unprecedented government scrutiny, it is exhilarating to take part in such an ingenious and  joyful celebration. There is hope after all. And it is nice to get to know our local parks. What more could one ask for?

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