Sudbury·Audio

One on One with Markus - Peter Beckett

Wanting to spend time in nature was something that came early for Peter Beckett.

Regreening efforts in Sudbury started 40 years ago

Peter Beckett was one of the people who worked to regreen Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Wanting to spend time in nature was something that came early for Peter Beckett.

He's one of the people who worked to regreen Sudbury, a project that started 40 years ago.

Beckett grew up in London, England and one of his earliest memories of school was an area behind the school that was full of plants.

"That's my oldest recollection of being interested in nature so that's where I say it all started," he said.

"It was a great place to play games, chase the spiders and pick up the ladybugs."

In grade 10, he went on a class trip to explore vegetation.

"I'm sure that led on to me actually doing my PhD on peatlands," he said.

'Mini-Sudbury'

Beckett eventually got a job in southern Wales and started working with a group looking at the potential to regreen an industrial landscape.

"It was a mini-Sudbury," he said.

"So I started work on that and finding ways to get vegetation to grow. Then, I actually had the opportunity to come to Sudbury for a visit."

Sudbury biologist Peter Beckett is our guest for this edition of One on One with Markus. He's been involved in the regreening of Sudbury since the first tree was planted back in 1978. You can hear about that and more in this extended interview with Peter Beckett. 15:07

That was in 1974. While in Sudbury, he stopped by Laurentian University for a tour and realized there was a job posting for a botanist. In 1976, he moved across the pond to Sudbury.

The city looked a lot different then than it does now. Instead of being full of lush trees and lake, it was full of black barren rock and stunted trees as a result of mining in the area.

9.7 million trees

Beckett says talk had already started about regreening efforts.

"Once I got here, I kind of joined the team," he said.

Since then, Beckett says 9.7 million trees have been planted in Sudbury, drastically changing the city's landscape.

Over the years, Sudbury has dramatically changed as a result of the regreening program. (Supplied/City of Greater Sudbury)

Beckett says the experience has been interesting as a scientist, as his work is being done outside the laboratory.

"If they work, then everybody's going to see them. If they should fail, then everybody's going to know about that as well," he said.

"Luckily … we have been able to get things to grow."

He adds that the regreening efforts have resulted in a "remarkable change" in the city.

"In some ways, it's like a miracle that Sudbury's changed so much," he said.

"People actually now come to Sudbury no longer to see the moonscape, but to see the city of the lakes and to see the hills that have been regreened."

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