As many COVID-related restrictions are lifted, people are returning to the outdoors to explore nature once again. Provincial parks have opened to welcome campers. People are returning to their cottages to enjoy serene lakes, bird songs and swaying trees in the warm summer-breeze.
At Ontario Nature, we are happy to provide opportunities for people to connect to nature and take action in their communities. Our Nature Reserves are great places to hike the unique Ontario landscapes. We have once again started to host events across the province where people can learn more about Ontario wild species and spaces – while physically distancing. We have also begun offering educational webinars for those that may not have the luxury of getting out into nature at this time.
One project that we are particularly proud of is the Ontario Nature Youth Council’s Our Special Spaces initiative, that brings together young people across the province to conserve nature in their own communities. With the generous support of TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, we have been able to connect youth to conduct pollinator friendly plantings, remove litter from parks, maintain hiking trails and cleanup shorelines.
In 2019, Ontario Nature held 12 Our Special Spaces events across Ontario engaging over 192 volunteers. Together the volunteers gathered 33 bags of garbage, mainly from Ontario’s shorelines, and planted a total of 1,460 perennial pollinator-friendly native plants.
The hard work of these volunteers makes a difference for nature and shows how people can take action in their own communities. Having a guided activity with friends and fellow volunteers isn’t just fun, it builds confidence in our young nature-enthusiasts.
“Leading a successful cleanup event within my community inspired me to lead a planting event because, through my work, I could directly see the small but effective change that the project made in making our spaces cleaner. I found that providing volunteers with the hands-on experience inspired them to reflect on their own impact and see themselves as changemakers.”
-Natalie Rae, Our Special Spaces Whitby volunteer
While many of these plantings are on pause this summer to prioritize the safety of our communities, we are looking forward to resuming the events later this fall to create a greener, more biodiverse Ontario.
Ontario Nature is grateful to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF), for their long-time support of the Our Special Spaces initiative, which connect young people and volunteers to nature, protect Ontario’s wild species and wild spaces, and reverse the ongoing trend of biodiversity decline in Ontario.
This is the first of our summer blog series focusing on the projects TD FEF support.
Written with contributions from Pınar Özgen.
Portia joined Ontario Nature in the fall of 2014. She has a Masters in environmental studies from York University, and a certificate in fundraising and volunteer management from George Brown College. Before joining Ontario Nature, Portia worked for The Stop Community Food Centre and Daily Bread Food Bank. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Toronto’s many parks and libraries.