At Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough, over 25 students and staff participated in soil preparation on June 13, 2024 for a GreenUP project to transform a 100-square-metre patch of lawn grass into a dense pocket of biodiversity by moving compost and mulch to enrich the area where a "little forest" will be planted in the fall. (Photo: GreenUP)

At Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough, over 25 students and staff participated in soil preparation on June 13, 2024 for a GreenUP project to transform a 100-square-metre patch of lawn grass into a dense pocket of biodiversity by moving compost and mulch to enrich the area where a “little forest” will be planted in the fall. (Photo: GreenUP)

By: Natalie Stephenson

As Canadian communities continue to urbanize, with roughly 73% of Canadians now residing in cities, more people are subject to the detrimental effects of climate change. Heatwaves, floods, fires, and storms are increasingly impacting urban areas, and our own region is no exception.

Addressing these challenges at the local level is crucial, and GreenUP is at the forefront of this effort in Peterborough. In 2024, Peterborough is among 27 communities across seven provinces participating in Green Communities Canada’s Living Cities Canada Fund projects, with GreenUP leading the local implementation of transformative green infrastructure initiatives.

The Living Cities Canada Fund initiative supports projects that make Canadian communities like Peterborough more abundant, equitable, and thriving. These projects aim to reduce the urban heat island effect, improve stormwater management, mitigate flood risks, enhance local air quality, and promote the physical and mental well-being of residents by connecting them to nature, and adding new greenspaces in areas of need.

With a long legacy of programs like DePave, NeighbourPLAN and Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods, GreenUP brings extensive experience and expertise to projects that improve our urban landscape. Laura Keresztesi, a Program Coordinator at GreenUP, has a wealth of experience in participatory engagement and co-design processes. Her leadership ensures that the projects not only meet environmental goals but also foster community involvement and support.

One of GreenUP’s notable Living Cities projects this year is the School Yard Greening Project at Keith Wightman Public School. In collaboration with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, the initiative engages students and staff in the design of a planting project that will transform 150 square meters of the schoolyard. The project will plant shade trees and create green play areas that also serve to boost biodiversity.

Students at Keith Wightman Public School in Peterborough share ideas on what types of green infrastructure they would like to see grow in their school yard. Plantings of trees, pollinator gardens and native grasses add biodiversity to the landscape, help children connect to nature, and offer shade and a lot of play value. (Photo: GreenUP)

Students at Keith Wightman Public School in Peterborough share ideas on what types of green infrastructure they would like to see grow in their school yard. Plantings of trees, pollinator gardens and native grasses add biodiversity to the landscape, help children connect to nature, and offer shade and a lot of play value. (Photo: GreenUP)

With planting scheduled for early October, the project will feature willow tunnels, a native grass maze, a shady grove of trees, and several small-scale “Little Forests” full of diverse species of trees and shrubs.

Meanwhile, at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School, GreenUP is proudly working with older students to transform a 100-square-meter patch of non-native Kentucky Bluegrass (a typical lawn grass) into a dense pocket of biodiversity. Over 25 students and staff participated in soil preparation on June 13th, moving compost and mulch to enrich the area where a not-so Little Forest will be planted in the fall.

A third significant project involves a partnership with One City to both enhance stormwater management and create edible infrastructure at Trinity Centre. Guests of One City programs have contributed ideas for rain gardens, fruit trees, pollinator gardens, and seating areas. Work is set to begin in August, with major planting activities planned for late September.

Projects like these not only enhance green infrastructure, but also work to build community. To achieve long-term success, new plantings must be nurtured by community members through their first three years. GreenUP is currently seeking Living Cities volunteers to be involved in tasks ranging from site preparation, planting, ongoing maintenance, to photography. Volunteers are also sought specifically for the Living Cities stewardship team to help with watering, weeding, and mulching.

Additionally, projects welcome in-kind contributions such as professional landscaping services, compost, mulch, plant materials, fencing, or food and drink donations for volunteer appreciation. Anyone interested in getting involved in this work should contact Laura Keresztesi for more information.

Guests and visitors to One City’s Trinity Centre offer ideas on what kinds of planting projects could improve the enjoyment and accessibility of the greenspace at the former Trinity United Church. Work is set to begin in August, with major planting activities planned for late September. (Photo: GreenUP)

Guests and visitors to One City’s Trinity Centre offer ideas on what kinds of planting projects could improve the enjoyment and accessibility of the greenspace at the former Trinity United Church. Work is set to begin in August, with major planting activities planned for late September. (Photo: GreenUP)

GreenUP is grateful for the support of the Living Cities Canada Fund from Green Communities Canada, which supports these projects. To continue to bring community-led green initiatives to fruition, charitable donations are critical. Donations fund the purchase of necessary materials and services, ensuring the success of each project. And as a charity, a tax receipt is issued for any contributions that are made to GreenUP.

As Peterborough and 27 other Canadian communities work together through the Living Cities initiative, they pave the way for greener, more equitable, and resilient urban environments. The collaborative efforts of GreenUP, local residents, schools, organizations, and volunteers underscore the power of community to address climate challenges right here at home.

Interested in the broader impact of climate change on vulnerable communities? Further information and interactive maps are available at [Healthy Plan.City](https://healthyplan.city/en).