A big day for Ontario’s Greenbelt: It just got greener and bigger!

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 10:44 -- envirodef

Today was a big day for Ontario’s Greenbelt. It grew by 400 hectares. That’s about the size of 800 football fields. And it will now be easier for communities to add their river valleys to the Greenbelt. This could result in millions more Ontarians connecting with the farmlands that feed cities and suburbs, and the green spaces and aquifers that clean our air and water. More land and river valleys protected by the Greenbelt means less sprawl, cleaner air and water, and more green space for people and wildlife. A very big day indeed!

On the greener side…

The Glenorchy Conservation Area in Oakville is an idyllic 400-hectare landscape of rolling hills, forests, creeks, and wetlands. Glenorchy – Scottish for “valley of tumbling waters” – will be the first official expansion of Ontario’s Greenbelt since its creation in 2005. This is an amazing milestone for the Greenbelt.

And there was more good news about Glenorchy. The Province of Ontario announced that it will double the amount of trees to be planted in Glenorchy to help meet forest canopy goals set by the Town of Oakville.

On the bigger side…

Oakville is the first to celebrate growing the Greenbelt, but others may soon follow thanks to the other piece of good news today. The Ontario government announced that it will create a new designation to allow for urban river valleys to be added to the Greenbelt. This means that municipalities like Toronto, Mississauga, Guelph and Brampton, who have all shown interest in growing the Greenbelt, could be encouraged to move forward.

Adding these municipalities’ major waterways, which include the Don, Humber and Credit rivers, to the Greenbelt would help connect millions of Ontarians to neighboring rural communities that provide us with food, and the environmentally important corridors that save cities millions of dollars by cleaning our air and water free of charge.

A little history: In 2008, Ontario gave municipalities the ability to expand the Greenbelt within their jurisdictions. Now municipalities can move forward to expand the Greenbelt into urban river valleys and keep municipal protection policies that are, in some cases stronger, compared to the Greenbelt policies.

The new designation will start public consultations later this month. Once the consultations wrap up, we hope to celebrate more Greenbelt expansion announcements with other GTA municipalities.

Both pieces of good news today – about Glenorchy and the new urban river valleys protection – are the result of the dedicated on-going work of Ontario municipalities and Ontario Greenbelt Alliance members over the last number of years. And the news is an important reminder of what positive changes can occur when we work together.

Take a moment to say “Thank you” to the Province of Ontario for supporting Ontario’s Greenbelt!