The environment poses the quintessential intergenerational legacy challenge. Solutions to climate change come down to two paths we must pursue simultaneously: reduced use of fossil fuels and more trees.
The Legacy Center Arboretum is an environmental legacy created to help heal the planet, the physical and conceptual center of the Legacy Project's work, and a metaphor for legacy. The trees in the arboretum have stories to tell – if we listen closely.
Trees have existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years. Most trees long outlive people, with 100-200 years being a typical lifespan. Some of the oldest living trees are the Bristlecone Pines in the mountains of California, estimated to be nearly 4,800 years old.
Trees are the largest of living things – some species grow over 300 feet tall and may weigh 600 tons.
Trees are big time multitaskers. By taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen, they help combat global warming. The leaves and fruits of trees provide food and medicines for animals and people. Trees provide a site for nests for birds. They provide shade in the hottest of temperatures, reduce noise pollution, prevent soil erosion, and are often used as windbreaks to shelter sensitive crops. Trees add beauty to our world, they lift our spirits. Research has even shown that surgery patients who can see trees recover faster and require less pain-killing medication than matched patients who view only brick walls. Trees also provide important symbolic links with the past – think of the Chestnut tree made famous in Anne Frank's diary – and with the future.
Nestled in a picturesque, wooded area of gently rolling hills, a 15-acre site just north of Toronto, Canada is home to the Legacy Center Arboretum, a living legacy in support of the Earth Charter.
diversity of trees – from Colorado Spruce, Jack Pine, and a 100-year-old White Pine to Birch, Maple, and Ironwood – create different environments throughout the arboretum. A lush, 50-foot high Cedar hedge frames the grounds. A Maple forest – dotted with white Trilliums in the Spring and bursting with reds and golds in the Fall – fills one corner. A large spring-fed pond – a thriving ecosystem teaming with fish, birds, and water plants – is cradled in another corner. Three islands are linked with walking bridges.
The arboretum is a place for exploration and discovery, a place to connect with yourself and the natural world. While some areas are groomed, others are natural. And the more you look, the more you see. The microcosm of the arboretum is filled with natural delights, from wildflowers to mushrooms to wild berries.
Environmental research and education for children and adults are a big part of the arboretum. A variety of workshops including guided Tree of Life Walks offer a chance to relax and enjoy nature, to learn the stories of the trees, to understand how you can care for your own home environment, and to explore the idea of trees as a metaphor for the life course and intergenerational connections. The Legacy Labyrinth also offers a variety of learning experiences for all ages.
You can download a Legacy Center arboretum tree sheet as an introduction to the trees on the site.
The beauty of the arboretum is being documented on
an ongoing basis by acclaimed nature photographer Peter Van Rhijn. From scenic landscapes to macro close-ups, we uncover the wonders of nature to share in Legacy Center books and posters.
The Legacy Center Arboretum is an inspiration for much of the Legacy Project's work.
If you're unable to visit the Legacy Center Arboretum in person and want to keep up-to-date on what's growing, see the photos, and access all the associated educational activities, check out the online portal. You can also bookmark our feature arboretum Photo of the Week.
Students can learn about the arboretum and the environment with connections across the curriculum through TreeKeepers.
The Legacy Center Arboretum is the home of the WS YOU 177 community innovation initiative that has brought together environmental groups, schools, seniors groups, the WSP Library, faith-based groups, and others. The arboretum is hosting a number of community events, like Walk Your Peace Talk.
Get involved with the Legacy Project and help to support the Legacy Center Arboretum. For updates on the Legacy Center, sign up for our e-newsletter. For a workshop schedule and guest passes, call us at
1-800-772-7765 or e-mail.