Metrolinx gives away 1,000 free trees, shrubs to Toronto residents

Metrolinx recently held two free tree and shrub giveaway events for local property owners living near the Lakeshore East GO tracks and the future Ontario Line route.  See photos and a video from the events here.

People in Toronto’s east end have another reason to spend time in their gardens.

That’s because hundreds of local residents went home with free trees and shrubs after a pair of recent community events. Approximately 1,000 plants were given away by Metrolinx in an initiative to give back to the communities where trees are being removed to make room for new transit projects.

Red Oak, Hackberry and Pin Oaks were among the species of trees given to the Riverside/Leslieville and Smalls Creek communities. Grey Dogwood, Nannyberry and Ninebarks shrubs were also popular choices among residents.

Footage from a recent tree giveaway in east Toronto. (Dan Lytwyn video)

For those unfamiliar with the Ontario Line project, it’s a 15.6-kilometre, 15-station subway line being built in Toronto that will run from Exhibition Place, through the heart of downtown, all the way to the Ontario Science Centre.

During the recent tree giveaway, many people walking down Queen Street East in Toronto’s Leslieville area were curious to see what was going on, and happily accepted a tree or bush from the Metrolinx table in Jimmie Simpson Park.

“It’s always good to have more greenery. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the trees being cut down near Jimmie Simpson Park, but I’m OK with how Metrolinx is giving back,” said Dean Benjamin, a Riverside resident.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of progress,” said Benjamin.

Metrolinx recently held a pair of free tree and shrub giveaway events in east Toronto. (Ross Andersen photo)

As part of the GO Expansion and Ontario Line projects, trees and vegetation are being removed along the routes to allow for new infrastructure – such as overhead electrification and rail construction.

Fallen and overhanging trees can also be disruptive and dangerous to passing trains along the Lakeshore East GO Line. Metrolinx helps manage dead and hazardous trees and the growth of invasive plants and trees by planting only native and pollinator species to help improve the health of local ecosystems.

The Ontario Line and GO Expansion projects are part of a larger transit building program that will create a transit network in downtown Toronto and the surrounding regions.

Metrolinx community relations and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority staff  chat with residents
Metrolinx community relations and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority staff helped coordinate the event. (Ross Andersen photo)

Metrolinx’s goal is to always plant more trees than removed, as the organization carries out the largest transit expansion in the region’s history.

To date, Metrolinx has funded and coordinated the planting of more than 25,000 native trees and shrubs – over 15,000 of which were coordinated through the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, who were on hand to help during the weekend events.

A video that shows the electrified GO Transit network and compensation program can be found here.

“This is great – I know some older trees are being taken down, but this is cool that Metrolinx is supplying these so people can replant them elsewhere,” said Raymond Smith, a Toronto resident.

Two residents with a pair of trees
More than 1,000 native trees and shrubs were given away at a recent community event. (Ross Andersen photo)

Despite the importance of increasing the number of trees in the neighbourhood, Metrolinx recognizes the value of a mature tree is significantly more than a young one.

The organization’s aim is to enhance the health of local ecosystems and increase the vegetation cover in the region.

To read more about the vegetation and tree compensation program, please visit the website.

Story by Ross Andersen, Metrolinx community relations specialist, video by Metrolinx senior content producer Dan Lytwyn.