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35-Year Old View of London Countryside to Change for the Greener with Trees Ontario Green Leader

Click here to watch the Channel A News clip with Green Leader, Dianne Lawrence.

June 14, 2010, London, ON – Thirty-five years ago, Dianne Lawrence and her husband Lloyd bought their 49-acre property near Mossley – southeast of London, Ontario. The farm was originally settled by the Jelly family in the 1850’s. Dianne and Lloyd live in the ‘new’ 1901 yellow brick home across the road from where the original Jelly log cabin was built.

“I can just imagine this countryside in the 1850’s and the flowing green canopy first experienced by the Jelly family when they arrived in the area,” said Dianne. “I look around now and wonder what happened to all the trees?”

“Fifty years ago, Wilton Grove Road, south of London, was lined with huge trees almost continually from Highway 74 to Wellington Road,” said Dianne. “Most concession roads including the one south of our home have lost mature growth including all the large elms that once lined our property.” Over the years Dianne has seen the green canopy disappear as a number of trees have been destroyed by disease including Dutch Elm and the Hickory Bark Beetle and urban sprawl as London continues to grow and expand.

What Dianne and Lloyd see is not a surprise. Research shows there were 20 to 30 million trees planted annually on private property in southern Ontario in the 1970’s and 80’s. This had dropped to as low as two million trees a year. Decreased tree planting, rapid urban growth and various forms of deforestation have left forest cover in some areas of southern Ontario as low as five per cent.

“In the winter when woodlots and bush are more visible, it’s now depressing to see how barren the land looks. There are more trees dead than living,” said Dianne. “As London continues to expand, we lose more woodlots and forests. But our environment needs more living healthy trees!”

In 2008, Dianne purchased an additional 11 acres of land adjoining their existing property where the Lawrence’s daughter and grandson live. Calling it “her retirement project”, the new land gave Dianne an opportunity to fulfill her dream of contributing to the re-foresting of the area and leaving a green legacy for future generations.

“Over the past two years we had planted trees by purchasing them from local nurseries for about $13.50 per tree. At that rate, we couldn’t afford to plant very many. So I decided to search the Internet to make my dreams a reality,” said Dianne. “It didn’t take long before I found Trees Ontario and the 50 Million Tree Program. It was exactly what I was looking for!”

Trees Ontario is the lead delivery agent for the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree program, which will see 50 million trees planted in southern Ontario by 2025. The program provides financial incentives to people looking to plant trees. It also provides eligible landowners with hands-on professional help and advice on tree planting including determining site eligibility, allocating funding and coordinating planting.

Trees Ontario contacted the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority (UTRCA), one of its local tree planting partners, who sent a representative to meet Dianne and view the property. The forester walked through the property, discussed tree planting goals, and developed a plan. The Lawrences prepared the site for the planting while the UTRCA selected, secured and then planted the 4,600 seedlings. They will also follow up and conduct site tending and survival assessments on the site.

The 50 Million Tree Program supports the planting of native tree species deemed to be the best for survival with the climate and soil conditions of the land and region. One of the challenges on the Lawrence’s property is that it sits on a watershed and a section of low ground remains wet almost all year round. So the forester recommended planting silver maples.

Dianne enjoys watching the new trees grow. Knowing she probably won’t be alive to see them as a mature forest, she is pleased to see she is creating a legacy for her daughter and 13-year-old grandson.

“My grandson has taken a very keen interest in the environment. He has planted his own garden and eats and sells his produce to local neighbours. I hope he will continue to be inspired by the trees around him and perhaps this will fuel a continued interest in the environment.”

Dianne Lawrence, Trees Ontario Green Leader and her grandson, Sean, stand in the field where the 50 Million Tree program help to fund planting 4,600 native tree seedlings.

Dianne is also hoping the trees will bring back the wildlife. “In 35 years, I have only seen one squirrel. That is ridiculous for a rural area. Hopefully these new trees will create a natural habitat to bring back not only squirrels but also deer, foxes, rabbits, wild turkeys and all different species of birds.”

When the trees mature, they will also form a northwest windbreak to protect their house from the strong winds known to frequent the area.

The next challenge is the weather. Despite a heavy and continuous flow of rain following the initial planting in April, the long term forecast for southern Ontario is for a warm and dry summer. That is not good news for new trees. But Dianne and Lloyd already have a plan.

“The idea of watering over 4,600 trees is a daunting task. We joked with our grandson that we would be sending him out with a bucket of water for each tree. If required, Lloyd will rig up a large water tank with outlet hoses on a trailer pulled behind his tractor and do a mass watering.”

Fingers are crossed in the Lawrence house that these trees will flourish and return some of that green canopy to London’s countryside.

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs and incentives available to Ontario landowners, visit:

Sean poses with one of the seedlings planted on his grandmother’s property. 

Dianne and Upper Thames Conservation Authority Forester, John Enright, worked together to assess the property, conduct site inspections, plant and tend the trees.

Click here to watch the Channel A News clip with Green Leader, Dianne Lawrence.