In September 2023, the City of Markham partnered with Honda Canada and Aviva Canada volunteers to install new mini forests at two sites within the Rouge River watershed: Milne Park and Austin Park.

Milne Park is privately owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and managed by the City of Markham. Austin Park is used for conservation and municipal stormwater management purposes and has publicly accessible recreation trails.

The volunteers planted 600 trees in a 200 m2 area across the two sites, replacing conventional lawns 

The Project

The City of Markham and 10,000 Trees for the Rouge partnered to identify these two parks as viable options for mini forests.  

The City prepared the planting sites using cardboard and mulch, to kill the grass while maintaining the health of soil organisms, including beneficial fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates. Their existing relationships helped recruit 45 volunteers to plant the trees and shrubs in September 2023.  

The 600 new trees represented 13 native species, such as red maple, serviceberry, and white spruce. In addition to wood chip mulch, each tree was planted with a coco fibre tree mat, in order to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Rodent guards have also been used to prevent rabbits and other pests from chewing on the bark and branches.  

“Mini forests are an excellent means to create ecosystems and communities that are resilient to climate change. We hope to work with GCC on mini-forest projects again in the future,” — Becca Spence, The City of Markham. 

Lessons Learned

These two new mini forests were installed in parklands within the Rouge Valley watershed, where they connect to existing woodland habitats.

The City informs they would strive to choose new mini forest sites for future projects in areas where these forests will be more impactful in providing ecological services such as shade, habitat for diverse species, air quality improvement, and stormwater absorption. They have identified that newer, medium to high density residential areas would benefit from having mini forests installed.  

Final Thoughts

These two mini forest planting events were highly successful and engaged active volunteers from two corporate organizations. The new mini forests add to the health of the Rouge River watershed by sequestering carbon, reducing flood risk, and increasing shade for park users.

The City of Markham anticipates further demand for mini forests in senior living communities, schoolyards, and corporate grounds, and is interested in pursuing additional installations.  

This project was supported by the National Mini Forest Pilot led by Green Communities Canada in collaboration with Dougan & Associates, Canadian Geographic and Wilder Climate Solutions through the Network of Nature and funded by Natural Resources Canada.