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New Green Oasis of Trees Being Created by Ontario Residents Outside Peterborough

Click here to listen to the interview with Gordon McArthur on CBC morning Kingston

Peterborough, ON, July 21, 2010 – Both Gordon and Ann McArthur grew up in Peterborough but didn’t meet until they were in London attending the University of Western Ontario and Victoria Hospital School of Nursing respectively. Marrying in 1962, they spent three years in Kitchener before moving to Toronto when Gordon joined Colgate-Palmolive in 1965.

Life at Colgate meant living in several countries, beginning with Mexico from 1974-76, then Malaysia from 1976-79, Italy from 1979-82 and the United States from 1982-1990. During this time, Gordon, Ann and the children would return every summer to their cottage on Chemong Lake, about 10 kilometres from Peterborough.

In 1990, after more than 15 years on the road, they returned to Toronto when Gordon became President of Colgate Canada. In 1993, Gordon left Colgate and started Enviro-Solutions which became a leading company in institutional cleaning products in Canada.

Retiring finally in 2005, Gordon and Ann began looking for opportunities to keep engaged and active but not with a project that would consume all their time and energy.

A year later they saw a beautiful piece of property about three kilometres from their summer home that had been on the market for quite a while. It was a mix of hayfields, forest and about 10 acres of marsh. What made it even more interesting to the family was that the land once belonged to Ann’s grandfather back in the early 1900’s.

They decided to purchase the 70-acre site – not with the intention of developing it for real estate or to farm – but instead to make it a green oasis for themselves and the community. First, they had an assessment, inventory and history done. They learned the land was home to many deer, wild turkeys and a wide variety of birds. There were also excellent opportunities to run scenic trails. The assessment also revealed that the soil was excellent if Gordon and Ann were interested in planting new trees.


Ann and Gordon McArthur take a stroll among their newly planted forest (photograph featured in Peterborough Examiner).

Gordon and Ann liked that idea and saw it as a great retirement hobby that would contribute to the environment, green the land and support the natural habitat of the wildlife that lived there. They contacted Peter Mabee, Peterborough Centre Stewardship Coordinator with the Ministry of Natural Resources, who recommended they attend a tree planting seminar.

“We tried doing it ourselves and purchased and planted 500-600 trees – not knowing what we were doing we had very little success as we didn’t prepare the land properly and many of the seedlings got choked out by the surrounding ground cover,” said Gordon.

Frustrated by the experience, Gordon contacted Mabee again and he advised him of the 50 Million Tree Program – a provincial government program that 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, the lead delivery agent for the Ontario government’s program, contacted Gordon and introduced him to Eleanor Reed from Lands and Forests, the program’s local tree planting partner.

“Eleanor and the people at Lands and Forests were great to work with. They came to our property, discussed our tree planting goals, picked the native tree species best suited for our land, secured the seedlings and coordinated and conducted the planting and are now monitoring the success rate. At a cost to us of about $2,500 for 13,500 trees and the kind of help and support you get, you would be crazy not to take advantage of the 50 Million Tree Program,” added Gordon.

The trees, primarily pines and spruces, cover almost the entire 20-acre lower portion of the land.  Used as a place to grow hay by the previous owners, Gordon and Ann wanted to green up the space, create unique trails and scenic surroundings for their family and the community to enjoy. Many of the neighbours regularly walk their dogs, hike and snowshoe along the newly created trails and enjoy the lush green oasis in the middle of barren cattle and dairy farms.

“We only have one rule for anyone using the land and its trails, ‘Leave things as you found them’,” added Gordon.

So far, everyone has been more than happy to oblige.

He and Ann are pleased to have created a lasting legacy for their family and the community.

“The feedback from my kids, grandchildren and neighbours has been overwhelmingly positive.  They tell me about the beauty of the area and how they enjoy walking their dogs or hiking the trails,” added Gordon. “A neighbour just told us they would move if we ever sold the land. Lucky for the neighbour, we don’t have any plans for that any time soon.”

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs and incentives available to Ontario landowners, visit: http://www.forestsontario.ca/planting/programs/


Another shot of the Ontario landowners and their recently completed re-greening project (photograph featured in Peterborough Examiner).