Grantee Spotlight is a blog series highlighting the experiences and successes of the Foundation’s grantees, as they work with communities and other Greenbelt partners to keep our province’s farmlands, forests, and wetlands safe and sustainable for future generations.
It’s our Greenbelt too!
Youth speak out about the future of our Greenbelt
Guest post from Julia Martini, Environmental Education Coordinator, EcoSpark
The first round of public consultations for the 2015 Coordinated Review may be over, but we were reminded that we haven’t yet heard from everyone.
On November 5th 2015, 150 students, teachers, scouts, local organizations and community members joined EcoSpark and Dunbarton High School in Pickering for a memorable student-led Greenbelt community forum. The night may have been about the Greenbelt, but the spotlight was on youth!
The Greenbelt forum provided youth with the much-needed opportunity to share their ideas, information and experiences on this beautiful and important landscape. Youth reminded us that they are the future voters and stewards of the environment and they had a lot to say to those making the decisions about the future of the Greenbelt.
"It is encouraging to see youth concerned with and involved in local greenspaces such as the Greenbelt, a valuable part of our city," said Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan. "Youth should have a strong voice in shaping the future of our communities."
The evening also marked the launch of the first-ever Ontario Greenbelt Youth Charter, written by 18 GTA youth who participated in a bus tour organized by EcoSpark in late September. Over two days these 18 Greenbelt Youth Ambassadors had the opportunity to visit six unique landscapes on the Greenbelt, discuss the significance of these spaces to the Greenbelt as well as to themselves, and create their charter.
Find out more about the Youth Charter at ecospark.ca/greenbelt-youth-charter
"Our legacy will be ...a Greenbelt that is preserved, protected and expanded for future generations to enjoy," said Kristal Ramnaire, a Greenbelt Youth Ambassador from Dunbarton.
"These students are absolutely right. If the Greenbelt is to be protected, it needs to grow," said Steve Parish, Mayor of Ajax and co-chair of the Municipal Leaders of the Greenbelt .
Left: Mayor Dave Ryan, City of Pickering; Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. Right: Felix Whitton Program Officer, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. Mayor Steve Parish, Town of Ajax and co-chair of the Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt.
"Why they want the Greenbelt to be preserved, protected and expanded must be taken into account along with the interests of other stakeholders," said Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark who organized the charter as a platform for concerned youth.
As the evening wrapped up, the passion that the Greenbelt inspired in many of the youth became clear. Ambassadors from RH King Academy even proposed a second bus tour of the Greenbelt, but this time they would mentor the newest Greenbelt Youth Ambassadors!
The stories and perspectives shared by youth at the event inspired an overwhelming amount of support from community members as attendees gathered around the youth charter to sign postcards and lend their voice to support a greener more robust future for Ontario`s Greenbelt.
The Greenbelt Youth Charter will be shared with Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Minister and Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the Advisory Panel for the 2015 Coordinated Review as a reminder for decision-makers to think and act selflessly about future generations.
Show your support for the Ontario Greenbelt Youth Charter! Click here to sign!
---Environmental Education Coordinator, EcoSpark
The development of a Greenbelt Youth Charter is part of an ongoing Ecospark initiative - Sparking a Successful 2015 Review through Youth Participation. The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation provided a grant of $50,000 over 8 months to support the project. Find out more about Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation grants at greenbelt.ca/grants_made.