Hundreds of volunteers in Richmond Hill gathered on Sunday to plant over 400 trees along the east Humber River as part of Canadian Rivers Day.
Volunteers carried shovels and buckets of mulch at Russell Tilt Park for the morning event which was organized by the environmental charity Ontario Streams and the Humber River Citizens Alliance.
“We thought it would be a nice idea to have one event in the upper Humber in the headwaters and kind of build that connection improving the river from top to bottom,” said Kat Lucas, Outreach and Communications Coordinator at Ontario Streams.
This was the first year doing this event in Richmond Hill and planting trees on the east side of the Humber River, said Lucas.
Volunteers also planted trees on the upper side of the river in the city of Toronto for Canadian Rivers Day, which has been held since 2002 on the second Sunday in June to preserve and raise awareness about the state of Canada’s rivers.
Ashley Smith, an Aquatic Biologist, and volunteer for Ontario Streams – an environmental charity to promote the protection and rehabilitation of streams, rivers, and wetlands – demonstrated how to plant the trees.
Smith said the trees planted on the weekend will act as a buffer to help reduce the amount of chemicals that can get into the river after a rainfall.
“Any chemicals, pesticides, or road salts will go through this buffer before it goes into the water course. It actually kind of catches garbage as well,” she said.
“The Humber River is a really valuable habitat for species at risk. What we’re doing today is enhancing this area here called the riparian area. It’s the area between uplands like the higher dryer stuff, and the water course,” she said.
Lucas said the trees planted today will have a positive impact on the environment.
“The roots of these trees are actually able to filter and clean the water as water moves off of our urban landscapes, our streets, our roads, parking lots, all of that,” she said.
“These trees are also going to help sequester carbon from the environment and try and help with climate change,” she said, noting that over the last three months, wildfires have spread across Canada, affecting air quality in many places including the GTA.
“We’re really working to try and protect the wildlife and habitat that is here and seeing these wildfires and them happening earlier than usual and closer to cities more than usual is definitely a concern.”
People need to continue to come together to take care of the environment for the future, Lucas said.