The Students' General Association, the Association Étudiant Français and the Indigenous Students Circle at Laurentian University teamed up to host an Oct. 21 event celebrating the grand opening of the United Nations (UN) Recovery Garden and Restoration Trail.
The event highlighted Sudbury’s history with the regreening project and Laurentian’s program of activities participating in the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
To give a bit of background, before government-enforced pollution mitigation measures were introduced in the 1970s, Sudbury was best known for its bare, blackened rocks, scarred by nearly a century of mining. Since then, thanks to the hard efforts of the regreening process, biodiversity is returning to Sudbury.
The student-led event was to celebrate the launch of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration as well as the opening of a new hiking trail and garden in Laurentian's Founders Square.
“Today’s event was a really moving event,” said John Gunn, director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, who has been running the aquatic restoration work at Laurentian University for about 30 years. “The students have a great passion and have raised money on their own for events like this. And they're willing to invest in the cost of garden supplies and tree planting and I thought that gave me great hope that the students themselves were so passionate about this.”
Gunn, who helped launch Laurentian’s activities with the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, helped the students reach out to Jane Goodall, who was named the UN messenger of peace in 2002 and Bob Rae, permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations.
Goodall and Rae were not able to attend the event at the Laurentian Student Centre in person, but were able to send virtual messages for the event.
“You know, we actually need more Sudburys in the world as we begin the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, worldwide,” Rae said in the video presentation.
Rae and Goodall both acknowledged Sudbury’s community progress as well as the research that has gone into the regreening efforts.
“For me, the name Sudbury is synonymous with recovery and resilience,” Rae said.
“I visited Sudbury in the past, and I’ve been so very impressed by the work you and your community have done to restore one of the most barren landscapes in Sudbury,” Goodall said in a video that was presented later on during the ceremony.
Since August, Avery Morin, the vice president education of the Students’ General Association at Laurentian University, worked closely with Gunn to prepare the United Nations restoration trail and recovery garden. Morin said that the participating student associations had a tree-planting day for the trails and the garden, as well as lining the garden with limestone rocks. Limestone is symbolic of the regreening efforts because it was an integral element in restoring biodiversity back to Sudbury.
“This is my first big university project. I’m in my second year of neuroscience and my first year was all online. So to have a space for students to gather and spend time outdoors is really really important,” Morin said. “This shows that the Laurentian community is really proud of our greenspace.”