2016: A Year in the Ontario Greenbelt

2016 was a busy and significant year for the Greenbelt. We put together 12 highlights, in celebration of the 12 days of Christmas and the upcoming 12th anniversary of the Greenbelt in February 2017. Happy Holidays!

DanCopeland_Hwy6Hamilton.jpgPhoto by Dan Copeland, Highway 16, Hamilton

1. Successful Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review

Thank you to all of our friends who supported the Greenbelt during the 2015 Review! We are particularly excited about new protections for 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands.  

In February 2015, the Province of Ontario embarked on a review of its four land use plans, including the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). The 18-month review period included town hall meetings and open houses, an advisory panel report, and an updated vision for the future of our region. The feedback period drew to a close in October, and we expect the final amendments will be announced in spring 2017. Until then, we encourage you to send a letter of support to protect the vital water resources we rely on. 

Plus, check out more highlights from the Review, and read our report Farmland at Risk. The report calls for improved land-use planning that views farmland as essential to our region – not as land waiting to be developed – and better provincial support to help farmers thrive.

2. Campaign to Grow Our Greenbelt

This summer, a grassroots coalition of environmental and agricultural organizations, water advocates and community groups launched a campaign to Grow Our Greenbelt. We called for the establishment of a Bluebelt that would secure the protection of water for over 1 million residents of the GGH. Canadian authors and activists Margaret Atwood and Maude Barlow, as well as regional councillors and urban planners endorsed growing the Greenbelt and permanently protecting vital water resources. 

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3. Protect the Greenbelt from Sprawl

In the fall, we mobilized again after learning that over 650 site-specific requests have been made to remove land from the Greenbelt. The development industry is aggressively lobbying the Province, putting our local food, fresh water, and billions of dollars worth of ecological services at risk.

Collectively, our supporters sent over 35,000 letters to both protect and grow our Greenbelt. To round-out the year, on December 6 members of the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance headed to the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park to meet with MPPs to encourage them to #GrowOurGB. We delivered your letters to Premier Wynne and Minister of Municipal Affairs Mauro. Read our highlights here!

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Meanwhile, the Neptis Foundation released a new report, “No shortage of land for homes in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.” The report finds that since 2006, the year the Growth Plan was established, less than 20% of the Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (GHTA) land supply for greenfield development has been built on. "That leaves 80% of the designated land supply to accommodate another 15 years’ worth of growth to 2031 and possibly beyond," states the report.

4. 2016 Photo Contest in Celebration of Our Water

In October 2016, we launched our second annual photo contest in collaboration with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and the Professional Photographers of Canada. This year, we are celebrating the addition of 21 urban river valleys and seven coastal wetlands to the Greenbelt. The contest is open until January 10, 2017. Whether capturing the scenic beauty of a winding river, or the joy of recreation that water resources provide, we encourage you to share with us what clean, protected waterways mean to you. Winning photographs will be displayed at McMichael and travel around the Greenbelt starting in March 2017. View our gallery, as well as last year’s winners, for inspiration! 

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5. Ontario's Good Fortune: Appreciating the Greenbelt's Natural Capital

A follow up to our 2008 report on natural capital, the latest report released in November 2016 finds that in addition to storing over $11.17B of carbon, the Greenbelt provides $3.2B annually in ecosystem services to the region. Key areas include recreational activities and flood protection. By applying the latest assessment tools in natural capital valuation, the report provides a case study and template for municipalities to assess natural capital. Understanding the value and benefits of ecosystem services is vital for informed decision-making and land use planning. Click here to learn more about the direct benefits of Ontario’s Greenbelt!

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6. 2016 Brewery Discovery Routes

Ontario’s self-guided Brewery Discovery Routes got bigger and better in 2016! Launched during Ontario Craft Beer week in June, the expanded routes include nearly 150 independent craft beverage producers, over 100 Feast On restaurants and additional points of interest across the Greenbelt. Some 250,000 maps were distributed to residents throughout Ontario, and a contest was held on Instagram to highlight the most-tagged stop along the way. Congratulations to the Second Wedge Brewing Co. in Uxbridge for taking home the prize! All of the routes are also available online at brewerydiscoveryroutes.ca.

7. Toronto Star Features

"To say that Ontario's agri-food industry is an economic powerhouse may sound like hyperbole, but in fact it's something of an understatement." 
— Dick Snyder for the Toronto Star

In 2016, the Toronto Star continued to feature issues of relevance to the Greenbelt, Growth Plan, Ontario agriculture, local food and more. Read the latest pieces on the Greenbelt Foundation and Greenbelt Fund websites, and keep an eye out for more features early next year.

8. Communities Head Into the Greenbelt

In partnership with RBC, The Stop Community Food Centre and regional Conservation Authorities, we were excited to launch Into the Greenbelt in July 2016. The program helps to bring new Canadians into Ontario’s Greenbelt for fun, educational day trips. We developed eight unique itineraries, including pick-your-own farms, birds of prey and barnyard animals at the Mountsberg Conservation area in Hamilton, nature walks and picnics at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, scenic hikes in the Rouge National Urban Park, and more. Click here to read about Into the Greenbelt trips this fall, by an array of community groups and organizations across the GTA.

IMG_0162.JPGMembers of Chinese Family Services of Ontario visit Mountsberg Conservation Area

9. Oak Ridges to Lake Loop Added to the Greenbelt Route

In summer 2016, we added a new multi-day cycling itinerary to the Greenbelt Route’s 475 kilometres of signed cycling adventures. The Oak Ridges to Lake Loop connects Peterborough to Northumberland, the Greenbelt, and Lake Ontario. The 200km loop features scenic cycling, unique attractions, and taste-of-place culinary experiences in the region. In particular, the loop includes stops at the highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, the historic Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Laveanne Lavendar Organic Nursery, the Orono Antique Market and much more. Use our Greenbelt Route tool to start planning your spring 2017 cycling adventures now!

10. TD Market Bucks

For the third year in a row, we partnered with TD Bank and the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network to attract new customers to markets, reward frequent customers, and celebrate local food. We gave away $42,000 in TD Market Bucks at eleven participating markets located in Aberfoyle, Binbrook, Cambridge, Creemore, Collingwood, Erin, Newcastle, Orangeville, Uxbridge and Toronto. Thanks to all of you who support your local Greenbelt market!

11. Greenbelt Farm Profiles

In January 2016, the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation released a collection of case studies focusing on nine successful farming operations within the Greenbelt. Entitled Greenbelt Farmers: sowing the seeds of success, the collection recognizes the myriad of ways local farm operations are providing economic prosperity to their families, communities, and Ontario’s booming agri-food sector – including reducing harmful environmental impacts, equipment and skill-sharing projects, and much more. Click here to learn more!

12. Eight in Ten Residents Support the Growth Plan

New Environics polling released earlier this month shows that 8 in 10 residents in the Greater Golden Horseshoe support the Growth Plan and its goals. The most important goal of the Growth Plan identified by respondents was the protection of farmland and sensitive natural areas.

The numbers also showed that 81% of residents support directing the majority of housing and job growth to already built up areas. Please click here for a detailed look at the survey results.

Bonus! New Recommendations for Land Needs Assessment

Our August 2016 report Plan to Achieve: a review of the Land Needs Assessment (LNA) process and the implementation of the Growth Plan, found that a flawed approach to LNA is leading to continued sprawl and undermining the Growth Plan. The report recommends new approaches to support municipalities in meeting Growth Plan targets. We look forward to contributing to informed land use planning in 2017!

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and Greenbelt Fund priorities and successes in 2015-16, read our annual reports available here!

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