August 2020 – on August 6, within one week of Stage 3 reopening for Peel Region that lifted restrictions on group gatherings, nearly 50 reforestation experts, conservation staff and community volunteers gathered at Fleetwood Park in Mississauga, to field test a COVID protocol for community tree planting.
“Pinch me!” said an exuberant Alice Casselman, Founder and President of ACER (Association for Canadian Educational Resources, named for Canada’s maple genus acer). “It’s perfect weather for the community to come out to plant trees together – and teach them about monitoring and measuring them for future enjoyment.”
“Since dreary April days under pandemic emergency lockdown, ACER has been working hard with reforestation colleagues to anticipate how our COVID community tree planting protocols will meet the required health and safety measures,” Alice said.
The suite of 25 native trees and shrubs planted in Fleetwood Park follows an international climate change research protocol, and adds to more than 60 sites planted across the GTA since 2003. Annual measurements from the sites are thus valid for inclusion in the international data sets.
ACER’s staff and volunteers joined with Forestry and Parks staff from the
City of Mississauga, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, Credit Valley Conservation and volunteers connected to Halton Environmental Network, and non-profit youth agencies and youth service groups.
Staff from Bramalea SNAP were on hand to observe and assess the COVID protocols that will be put to use to plant 1500 trees for climate change research in Brampton. In October 2020, social bubble teams will be sequenced for 2-hour tasks to plant the native trees and shrubs.
In March 2020, ACER Canada was funded by Arbor Day Foundation under TD Green Spaces program to support the Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Program (SNAP).
Bramalea SNAP areas were identified in 2019 by the City of Brampton and Toronto Region Conservation Authority.
These SNAP areas correspond to those described by Toronto Medical Officer of Health on July 30, who reported that COVID-19 caseload by postal code shows that racialized and lower-income communities in the city are disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic.
From its 2019 independently collaborated research in Peel, ACER has found that such vulnerable populations tend to live in areas of low tree canopy, adjacent to environmentally degraded areas.
ACER had these areas mapped in Peel Region. In December 2019, data map overlays created by municipal geospatial staff in Mississauga and Brampton identified ‘heat islands” of low tree canopy, low wellbeing and higher policing, which coincided with Statcan data maps for residency of recent immigrants and lowest income.
“We want vulnerable communities to enjoy more beautiful, tree-shaded, healthier neighbourhoods,” says ACER founder Alice Casselman. “We can improve wellbeing now, by safely planting trees and creating future shady memory sites for people in the area to gather.”
A training video – suitable for distance learning as well – is in the works. Canada Helps Foundation merited ACER’s proposal under the COVID-19 Charity Adaptation and Innovation Fund for pandemic response with virtual training on its website. Donate at Canada Helps so ACER can meet its target of $12,000 so we can hire a local videographer to shoot and produce content for the ACER website.