We make the world we live in and shape our own environment.
~ Orison Swett Marden
Gerard Courtin has been a community builder since his arrival in the city in 1968. As a professional ecologist, he was one of the pioneers in experimenting and developing techniques for stabilizing vegetation on the disturbed land in the Sudbury region.
"Gerard has pretty much dedicated his life to conserving the environment. He is a shining example of someone who quietly and relentlessly lives a life governed by the laws of preservation and conservation and modesty," says Sheilah Arena, vice-president of the BioSki Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Club.
He made contributions to the Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee (VETAC) in the mid-1970s.
At Laurentian University, he inspired students to take up environmental interests and challenges, not only in Sudbury but in other parts of Canada and the United States.
He was awarded the 2000-2001 Laurentian University Teaching Excellence Award, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association for Outstanding Contribution to University Teaching Award in 2001, and the Laurentian University Student Appreciation Award for the last three years.
Retired from the Department of Biology, he continues to teach forensic botany as well as work on forensic botanical cases for various Ontario police departments. He is the recommended forensic botanist for the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto and its Northern Regional Forensic Laboratory in Sault Ste. Marie.
Lake Laurentian Conservation Area is dear to Courtin's heart. Some of the first biological information about the area was obtained by students associated with Courtin.
Courtin continues to apply his environmental knowledge as a founding member of the Friends of Lake Laurentian and encourages active recreational and educational use of the area and environmental restoration by conducting events, tree planting and other activities.
He saw the potential for developing ski trails in the conservation area. He spent many weekends constructing the basic ski trails between 1974 and 1976 with members of the Laurentian University Biology Club.
He has continued to be a key member of the volunteer group that looks after the winter trails of the BioSki ski and snowshoe club, which allows many residents to enjoy the winter beauty of Sudbury. At the present time, Courtin is president of the club.
He firmly believes the next generation needs to have the same passion about the environment as he has. He was an educational leader for several years for the Rainbow Routes Learning Through Trails program, and is a regular supporter as patron to Sudbury's earthdancers.
For the past six years, he has aided the Green Spaces Advisory Panel of the City of Greater Sudbury in formulating a Green Spaces plan.
In 2011, Courtin received the Community Garden Delki Dozzi Appreciation Award. He has been very active in the Community Action Network (CAN) for Ward One and, in particular, ensuring healthy and abundant food is produced in the community garden at Delki Dozzi Park in Gatchell.
The community garden has been a success largely because of the families involved who take pride in their work, he says.
Not only does the garden feed people, it teaches them about the environment, how to grow food, and the importance of local food sources. Some of the food grown is part of the Grow a Row program and is donated to the Sudbury Food Bank.
With files from Peter Beckett, winner of the Community Builders Award for the Environment in 2005.