The Don River has its headwaters north of Toronto, forming two waterways — the East Don and the West Don — that meet in the city’s midtown, before flowing into Lake Ontario. An industrialized river, the Don has been more hazard than habitat to wildlife for much of Toronto’s history. But that’s changing. One of the many people you can thank is Phil Goodwin, founder of East Don Parkland Partners, a group that’s been planting trees by the thousands.
Tell us about East Don Parkland Partners.
To put it simply, our focus has been to clean up the East Don River, to create more forest canopy and riparian canopy to help the river. We also want to increase education and awareness. Twice a year, we do tree-planting events. Twice a year, I’ll also lead nature walks. I’ll get anywhere from 10 to 30 people. We’re an informal group. We don’t really have meetings. We have events. I’d rather spend time having events than getting caught in paperwork.
How did the group get started?
It was in the 1990s. I was taking a course, and one of our assignments was to create a community event. The East Don flows through my neighbourhood, and there’s a beautiful naturalized park by the river. So I decided to do a little path party on a park trail for my project. I wanted to get people out to enjoy the outdoors. We had a couple hundred people there the first year. I met my local metro councillor, Joan King, as a result. She got me involved with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. And it just went from there. What are some of East Don Parkland Partners’ achievements? After our group formed, I got involved with the Don Watershed Regeneration Council, which is part of the conservation authority, and learned there was a plan to clean up the river. So from there, our group started doing tree-planting events. We’ve probably planted about 12,000 trees since then. I’ve been amazed by what we’ve seen in the last five years thanks to cleanup efforts by various groups, not just our own. We’re seeing deer, coyotes, mink, fox, pileated woodpeckers and species of wildflowers and trees. It’s really quite incredible. Salmon are using the river. We’re getting brown trout. People are saying they’re even seeing rainbow trout. The Don is coming back to life. There’s a long way to go, but we’ve got hope.
How does the group pay for its tree planting?
We’ve gotten money from organizations, such as TD Friends of the Environment and the McCutcheon Foundation. But for the most part, we’ve raised the money ourselves. A primary source of our fundraising is an annual event called “Quest for Chowder.” I developed a friendship with Rodney Clark, the owner of Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto, and for more than a dozen years now, we’ve been doing an afternoon of oysters and chowder at Rodney’s to raise money. He even lets us into the kitchen to cook the chowder. Most of the money we raise for tree planting comes from Quest for Chowder.
How did conservation become a central part of your life?
I grew up in Thornhill, north of Toronto. There were fields at the end of our street, fields behind our house. We played in the creek, which flowed into the Don. We grew up in the outdoors. The outdoors were always part of my life.
What are your future goals with East Don Parkland Partners?
We’re going to continue planting. At the same time, we’re working with other groups. If you can pollinate other areas, you can make it grow.
If you are nominating an individual, please indicate whether this person’s contribution to conservation was primarily as a resource professional or as a private citizen. Also indicate the number of years this person has devoted to conservation.
Please add me to CWF's online community. I will receive wildlife and conservation updates, the latest news and features, opportunities to support CWF’s mission and special CWF and partner e-mail offers for free! I know that I can unsubscribe at any time.
Please submit a summary document (not more than 10 pages) of your nominee’s accomplishments and contributions to conservation. Include such information as organizational affiliations, memberships, service on boards and councils, past achievements, awards, distinctions and/or academic achievements, publications and papers, press clippings, photographs, etc., to support your nomination. Keep in mind that your summary is what the Awards Committee will use to access your nominee. Please provide as much information as possible in order to assist the committee in making their decision.
If you are nominating a project, summarize its purpose, the activities associated with the project, the extent of participation by individuals, results achieved and how the project benefited wildlife. You may include press clippings, photographs, slides, videos, magazine articles, etc., to support your nomination.
Use a separate form for each nomination and for each award. Nominations will NOT be considered unless adequate information is received.
Nominations received AFTER the stated deadline will not be considered until the following year.