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Toronto's St. James Park to get free post-Occupy makeover

Police moved into St. James Park to evict Occupy Toronto protester in Toronto, Ont. Nov. 23/2011.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The downtown Toronto park that once served as the base camp for the month-long Occupy protest is getting a free facelift.

Dozens of volunteers with landscaping and sodding firms are fixing up the patchy and muddy lawn of St. James Park at no cost to the city.

The stretch of grass took a beating during the 39-day occupation, which saw protesters pitch tents and build fires in the park from mid-October to late last month.

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City officials had estimated it could cost up to $60,000 to repair the damage.

Kyle Tobin, one of the project's organizers, says it's important to get the work done before the ground freezes.

He says the lawn will be back to its former glory in the spring.

Mr. Tobin says people often underestimate the environmental and esthetic role of grass.

"Everyone understands the value of trees," he says. "This stretch of lawn here... has just as much value as a forest of trees."

Restoring the grass at St. James Park will produce enough clean air for 545 families, he said.

The volunteers are preparing the soil Wednesday and laying new sod Thursday.

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They are members of the trade group Landscape Ontario and the non-profit Nursery Sod-Growers Association.

Toronto Councillor Pam McConnell, whose ward includes the park, says Occupy Toronto has made a separate donation toward holiday lighting.

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