Network of Nature and Green Communities Canada launch National Mini Forest Pilot program in Richmond, B.C.

Community members and local organizations gathered to plant a Miyawaki forest

  • Published Apr 26, 2023
  • Updated May 04
  • 697 words
  • 3 minutes
Community members plant trees in Terra Nova Rural Park, B.C. (Photo: Tori Fitzpatrick/Can Geo)
Expand Image

Getting your hands dirty, planting native trees and spending time outdoors, what better way to celebrate Earth Day?

To launch the Network of Nature and Green Communities Canada’s National Mini Forest Pilot program, residents from Richmond, B.C., gathered in a small plot at Terra Nova Rural Park for a kick-off planting event. The day was a little cloudy with a light drizzle, but even the overcast skies couldn’t stop these enthusiastic participants from taking action to support this pilot program.

“I hope that today people are inspired to continue planting more trees and looking for ways that they can take direct action in their own backyards or within their own communities,” said Emily Amon, green infrastructure manager at Green Communities Canada.

Through community events like the National Mini Forest Pilot program, the Network of Nature — a collaboration between Canadian Geographic, Dougan and Associates and the TD Ready Commitment — aims to educate communities about the importance of native plants and the responsibility to protect Canada’s biodiversity. The planting event at Terra Nova Rural Park was the first of five mini forest events that will take place across Canada in 2023, where a minimum of 2,800 trees will be planted.

Emily Amon, green infrastructure manager at Green Communities Canada, Alexa Loo, Richmond City Councillor, Wilson Miao, MP for Richmond Centre and other organizers plant the first trees. (Photo: Tori Fitzpatrick/Can Geo)
Expand Image

Funded through the Government of Canada’s Two Billion Trees program, TD Bank Group and the Greenbelt Foundation, the pilot program aims to address the need for green spaces in urban environments. This is achieved by transforming sites in locations such as Richmond, Toronto, and Hamilton into diverse, fast-growing forests.

During Earth Week, teaching students about healthy environments was top of mind for teachers at Choice School for gifted children in Richmond. Principal Sukhbir Bolina attended the kick-off event with his family and 10 students from the school. The students were eager to get outside and play in the dirt, but Bolina hopes the experience will encourage them to become stewards of the environment.

“When you plant trees, it becomes very personal. You come back a few years later, and you take ownership of the tree that you planted, you nurture it, and you come visit it,” said Bolina. “If every individual did that to a tree, just think of what a better place this could be.”

Learning about native plants can start at any age. Brian and Salima Dixon arrived early to their young daughter Ariela Dixon’s outdoor class when they saw the mini forest being planted in the park. The Dixons saw the event as an opportunity to foster their daughter’s innate curiosity for the natural world.

Principal Sukhbir Bolina (second to left) with students and teachers from Choice School for gifted children. (Photo: Tori Fitzpatrick/Can Geo)
Expand Image

“She’s really curious about all this kind of stuff, so we brought her in,” said Salima Dixon. “I’m not very handsy, but [we do it] because of my daughter.”

Participants planted the mini forest using the Miyawaki method. Miyawaki forests are densely planted forests of native species from four different categories: canopy, sub-canopy, small-understory trees and shrubs. Trees are planted in close proximity to increase competition for access to light, causing them to grow upwards faster. Native plants also attract other species, such as pollinators, who rely on them during various stages of their lifecycle. The resulting ecosystem is small in size but rich in life.

Elaine Decker, a former teacher, was first introduced to the Miyawaki method when she participated in planting a Miyawkai forest at Richmond Secondary School.

“What I like best about the engagement of the Miyawaki forest, particularly in schools, is that the students plant the trees, and they grow up together,” said Decker. “These events can open up a conversation about what can you imagine your life like without a tree?” She believes these initiatives teach children about the value of the natural world because each child learns to care for the trees they’ve planted. 

Planting trees also builds relationships between community members. “[We are] a community of people, planting a community of trees,” said Decker.

The mini forest planting event was a collaborative effort, and the resulting forest ecosystem will continue to foster relationships between the community and the environment as it grows. 


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content


Planting a network of mini forests across Canada

Six new mini forests were planted in cities across Canada in 2023 as part of a national pilot project to combat biodiversity loss and create new green spaces in urban areas — and the work is just beginning

  • 758 words
  • 4 minutes


Network of Nature: The new program working to restore Canada’s biodiversity, one plant at a time

Network of Nature aims to inspire Canadians to improve the long-term health of our ecosystems through the planting of native species

  • 1009 words
  • 5 minutes


Biodiversity by design: A birds and bees tour of Calgary

Alberta’s largest city has a lofty goal to restore some of its roadsides, boulevards and other open spaces to a more natural state. Here’s a look at some biodiversity-friendly projects already underway. 

  • 1910 words
  • 8 minutes
A small eastern hemlock tree surrounded by taller trees


Planting local: In major shift, Toronto requires some developers to source native plants from local seeds

Changes to the city’s Green Standard aimed at protecting its fragile ravine network will pose challenges and opportunities for landscapers — and could kick off a national trend

  • 1133 words
  • 5 minutes