2021 Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship

As a founder of GUFF, Nora is recognized for her sustained commitment to the stewardship of trees. Through education, advocacy and mentorship Norah has raised awareness and understanding of the importance of urban trees and their canopy to the health and well-being of the residents of Guelph. She was instrumental in getting a tree by-law adopted by the City of Guelph and had engaged citizens in support of a variety of initiatives to conserve and grow our urban forest for future generations. Norah has been a true steward of the trees of Guelph.

GUFF Steering Committee member Clare Irwin shares a moment with Norah Chaloner (on right) and her award.

Speech by Sean Fox, Manager of Horticulture and Curator of Collections and Conservation at the Arboretum of Guelph, November 2021

In 2019, the Guelph Urban Forest Friends introduced the Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship during that year’s Arboretum Expo. Now, of course, many of you, especially in this room now, knew Henry very well, and for those of you that never had the chance to meet him before his passing in 2005, you will no doubt have heard many of the stories about his dedication to growing, protecting and advocating for trees, forests and our natural environment. Henry was cherished for his wisdom, integrity and mentorship, and each year GUFF aims to honour another member of our community who embodies these characteristics in their stewardship of our trees.

Our inaugural award was presented to Doug Steel, and this year we’d like to celebrate Norah Chaloner.

Like Henry, Norah is a familiar face around Guelph and someone you’d no doubt recognize from so many different events, activities and urban forest initiatives around town.  What some of you may not know, is how many of these activities were driven specifically by Norah’s vision.

I first got to know Norah better in 2007 when she reached out to discuss Guelph’s Strategic Urban Forest Management Plan.  She saw the critical need to ensure that trees were appreciated and prioritized with a city that was growing so quickly, and was already busy at work recruiting members for the formation of the Guelph Urban Forest Friends; an advocacy group to keep urban forest protection on the radar of our local politicians and developers.  The group quickly grew over the course of the following years, and before long GUFF, under Norah’s vision, was putting on community events, advocating to create and strengthen Guelph’s tree protection by-laws, updating Guelph’s register of champion trees through the Great Guelph Tree Hunt, and connecting with local schools to educate children about the value of our urban trees.

Among other things, Norah was instrumental in helping to protect of a large grove of sugar maples on the grounds of John McCrae school from being removed and damaged during construction; she ensured that heritage trees were protected during the development of the Hanlon Creek business park, and acted as a resource for concerned citizens that didn’t know who to turn to with tree protection concerns of their own.  Whether preparing urban forest-related questions for city council candidates, reaching out to city staff to discuss strategies for mitigating development damage to trees, or smiling away at the Farmer’s Market every week while celebrating trees with the public, Norah always had the protection of trees in her mind and in her heart.

In 2013, Norah decided to step down from GUFF to leave its care in the hands of the current members.  This wasn’t because Norah was done with trees or needed a break; No, Norah had other things that needed to be done!  As such a strong force in Guelph for the protection of our trees, water and environment, Norah went on to become a founder of the Yorklands Green Hub, while also continuing her work with the Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers to keep these interconnected issues at the forefront. She also introduced the Ten Tall Trees Program for children in Grades 7. To this day, Norah can still be found leading tree tours at the Yorklands Green Hub, offering the Ten Tall Trees program in schools and hosting kitchen table talks to bring members of the community together that share a passion for these issues.

And, for any of you that know Norah, you can sense that she does all of this from the heart because she believes in the good it can do. She’s not expecting recognition or awards, but she’s certainly more than deserving, and this is why the Guelph Urban Forest Friends are honored to present to the 2021 Henry Kock Award for Tree Stewardship to Norah Chaloner.