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Volunteers help to "green the entrance" on campus

GREEN THUMB: Members of the U of T Scarborough community help to plant shrubs and wildflowers around campus as part of a series of events aimed at greening the campus. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

The front entrance to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus looks a lot greener today, thanks to the efforts of some 30 volunteers who got their hands dirty recently.

Grey skies did not deter the staff, students and community members who took part in the Greening the Entrance event on May 16 and planted wildflowers and shrubs. The heavy rains the night before ensured that the soil was moist and made for easier planting – as well as muddy shoes.

This planting was just one of a series of environmental activities taking place on campus in cooperation with Evergreen, an environmental organization and U of T Scarborough’s partner in a host of upcoming green initiatives. Evergreen is a charity that builds the relationship between nature, culture and community in urban spaces -- schools, communities and homes. More events are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Planting activities took place on two sites. Wildflowers such as wild bergamot and blue vervain were planted in one of the most visible spots on campus -- the patch between the Arts and Administration building and the Student Centre. The second planting took place in the grassy middle of the dropoff “U” at the campus main entrance. Shrubs were planted on this terrain, which is a natural depression that will help collect rainwater from constructed surfaces and absorb excess moisture, thereby helping to combat the effects of flooding.

“Greening the campus has been high on my list of priorities,” said Johnny Westgate, a Master’s student in environmental chemistry and a member of the campus Evergreen committee. “As an undergraduate, I studied the hydrology and geomorphology of the Highland Creek watershed. I have also witnessed the effects of two big floods that tore apart the creek area, so I understand the goals -- and the necessity – for a greener campus.”

“I consider myself an environmentalist,” said Yumna Nabi, a third-year student in public policy and political science. “I wanted to come today to the planting activities because we need more green areas in our communities, and so I wanted to help with that.”

“All of these plants are species that are native to the area,” said Mario (Yo) Lanteigne, a staff member from the campus Grounds Crew. “That’s important, and it’s great to see the students and younger generation out here supporting these activities.”

"It's important that these events are happening at an educational institution," says Lindsay Stroud, Stewardship Coordinator at Evergreen. "Learning more about the natural world makes education relevant and brings it to life for everyone."

Volunteers are needed for our future activities. Gloves and equipment will be provided for planting events. Upcoming events include:

•    HIGHLAND CREEK NATURE WALK - Take a walk on the wild side and learn more about the area. Highland Creek and its associated waters flow through one of the most urban areas of the Greater Toronto Area. Join us on Tuesday, May 29 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Colonel Danforth Park to explore Highland Creek and learn about how communities like the University of Toronto Scarborough are helping to bring nature back. Meet at the Miller Lash House parking lot beside the playing field in the valley. See map.

•    BRING NATURE TO RESIDENCE - PLANTING AND BARBECUE -  Meet under the oak trees near Joan Foley Hall on Thursday, May 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Help to add woodland wildflowers and trees to the university residence area between Joan Foley Hall and Fir Hall. With your help, volunteers can enhance plant diversity and create wildlife habitat. Drop in on your lunch hour or break. Food will be available for sale at a lunchtime barbecue at the Residence Centre next to the planting site. Some of the species to be planted may include wild wood aster, wild columbine, and dogwood. Meet at Joan Foley Hall.

•    BACK TO THE FRONT -  To follow up the planting work done on May 16 at the front of the campus, the volunteers will return to plant native wildflowers and shrubs in the new wildflower garden and in the middle of the drop-off “U”. This event will take place on Monday, June 4 from 4 to 6 p.m.  Everyone is welcome to stay for two hours or drop by for ten minutes. Meet at the front entrance of the Arts and Administration Building.

Visit our web site at for details about these events. For more information about Evergreen, visit

© University of Toronto Scarborough