The Canadian Bahá’í National Centre property was purchased more than 40 years ago before the City of Toronto expanded to the northern suburbs of Markham, Richmond Hill and beyond, surrounding the administrative centre of the Bahá’í Community in Canada. Today, the 22-acre property remains a thriving green space around the National Centre building. In addition to a large woodlot, lawns, flower beds and shrubbery that adorn the property, a golf course to the west and municipal parks to the east and north surround the building.
In 2014, a Managed Forest Plan, aligned with the principle of environmental stewardship, was implemented by the National Spiritual Assembly for the property. An initiative of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Managed Forest Plans allow organizations and landowners with more than four hectares of forest land to responsibly oversee the health of the forests on their property over a 10-year period.
The grounds have a trail to a designated Temple site, which over some time, will be “increasingly developed as a space for reflection and meditation,” according to Pat McCann-Smith, the National Centre’s Office Coordinator. Though the site itself is not yet developed, as no official plans to build a Baha’i House of Worship have been made, part of the plan includes maintaining the trail for friends who wish to visit the Temple site.
A key focus of the plan is environmental protection. This is addressed through assessing and monitoring the forest’s health, diversifying species through tree planting, maintaining and advancing forest cover and controlling invasive species. The property is divided into six “compartments”, where the needs for each area are addressed. Some areas require tree seedlings to be planted for species diversity- others have invasive species that need to be controlled.
The plan also considers the wildlife that lives in the forest. It works to create (or preserve) spaces such as tree trunk cavities or standing dead trees specifically for animal habitats. These habitats will help the array of wildlife at the Centre, such as deer occasionally seen walking across the lawn or through the main road of the property. In previous years, foxes were commonly seen along with the odd coyote and ever present skunks and racoons.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, staff will continue to give attention to species diversification and controlling invasive plants before filing a five-year report in 2019 to assess the plan. The next eight years of this plan will continue to benefit the forest’s wildlife and environment while preserving a space where the beauty of nature is found - in the heart of a metropolis.