Top 11 Greenbelt stories to look forward to in the years ahead!

February 28, 2016 marks 11 years since the Greenbelt Act established the largest greenbelt in the world. 

A lot has happened since, and at the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation we’re fortunate to be a part of it. 

The tireless efforts of our friends, partners, and grantees over the last 11 years have shown Ontarians that the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions to the future of the province and has ensured that the Greenbelt is a great place to live, work, play and grow. 

And here’s the best part – after 11 great years, there’s still more to come!

In honour of 11 years of the Greenbelt, here are the top 11 things we’re looking forward to in the years ahead. 

  1. A greener, more robust Greenbelt
  2. An opportunity to grow our Greenbelt 
  3. An 110-km Credit Valley Trail
  4. More varieties of Tender Fruit
  5. More Cycling Infrastructure
  6. A growing local food sector
  7. Improving the Greenbelt’s ecological health
  8. Preparing for climate change
  9. Partnerships and knowledge-sharing with Ontario’s planners
  10. Leveraging green infrastructure and natural capital in Ontario’s Greenbelt
  11. The voices and innovation of Greenbelt youth 
 

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A greener, more robust Greenbelt

GB_Photos_1.jpgThe Greenbelt’s 11th Anniversary falls at a particularly exciting time.  The Greenbelt Plan, along with the Growth Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, are in the midst of a provincial review.

We expect the government to release the proposed amendments to these land use plans—in addition to announcing a public input process— in the coming months. 

It will be a landmark moment in Greenbelt and Greater Golden Horseshoe history.

Why? Because the release of the province’s recommendations—and the amendments to follow—will very likely result in stronger legislation and a greener more robust Greenbelt.

With more than nine million people expected to call the Greater Golden Horseshoe home by 2041, the opportunity to ensure our land-use plans help us create liveable and complete communities, protect our natural assets, and contribute to the ongoing viability of farming, is both exciting and vitally important. 

Find out how you can be part of the conversation!

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An opportunity to grow our Greenbelt

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At almost 2 million acres, the Greenbelt is pretty big. But according to a growing movement of citizens, elected officials, environmental organizations, and grassroots community groups, it’s time it gets even bigger. The consensus is that in order to keep our drinking water clean and safe, our agricultural land productive, and our communities liveable and sustainable, we need to protect key ecological features from encroaching urban development.

The movement to grow the Greenbelt has so much momentum, there’s every reason to think an even larger Greenbelt will soon become a reality.

Here are just some of the key conversations we've seen in the past two years:

We look forward to other municipalities following Mississauga’s lead and can't wait to see what the Province has to say about the Greenbelt in the coming months!

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An 110-km Credit Valley Trail

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On September 11, 2015 the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and Credit Valley Conversation announced a plan to develop a 110-kilometre hiking trail along the Credit River.

With a $100,000 grant from the Foundation, Credit Valley Conservation, partnering with the Credit Valley Heritage Society, will bring to life a 60-year old vision of a connected pedestrian corridor. The new 110-km trail will allow people to travel from the Credit River headwaters in Orangeville to the mouth of the river at Port Credit on Lake Ontario.

The full trail is expected to be finished in 10-15 years.

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More varieties of Tender Fruit

large-peach.pngThe Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation recently invested $400,000 in Niagara's tender fruit industry; the largest investment we've made in the last five years into the province's agricultural sector. Partnering with the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers the pilot project will result in 130,000 new tender fruit trees in Niagara, and is projected to provide an injection of roughly $4 million into the province's economy.  

Expect to see the new tender fruit varieties in grocery stores, farmers'; markets, on-farm markets, and restaurants early summer 2019. 

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More Cycling Infrastructure 

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As you may be aware, the Greenbelt Route launched earlier this year, adding to a short list of long distance, signed cycling routes in Ontario. At 475 kilometres long, the route extends across Ontario’s Greenbelt, from Niagara Falls to Rice Lake. The response and uptake to this world class cycle tourism product has been incredible.

The Greenbelt Route website already includes an interactive online map, 35 one-page paper maps, and a growing list of self-guided cycle tourism itineraries to plan and explore. New for 2016, the website will build upon those tourism itineraries with some additional wayfinding and trip planning functionality that will make the user experience richer and more intuitive.

Watch for this new content on greenbelt.ca/route, planned for a roll out to the public in the coming months.

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A growing local food sector

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This past October, the Province announced that they would be providing our sister organization—the Greenbelt Fund—with $6 million over three years to continue the Fund’s work promoting Ontario’s local food sector.

This funding will help encourage consumption of the delicious local food grown by Ontario's farmers. It will support and help bring food into more public sector institutions, including schools and hospitals. It will improve local food literacy and access to local food. And overall, it will showcase the benefits of our thriving agricultural sector.

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Improving the Greenbelt's ecological health

Water_1.jpgThe Greenbelt Foundation provided a $72,500 grant to the Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition (CAMC) to develop an "Action Plan for Ecological Enhancement across the Greenbelt."

Why is this exciting? We know that the Greenbelt is relatively healthy, but more could be done to restore and enhance ecological assets, from forest cover, to water quality, to aquatic ecosystems. CAMC is bringing together 13 conservation authorities and a coalition of conservation and environmental groups to identify how best to improve the Greenbelt’s ecological health over the next 10 years and beyond.

The potential benefits are huge in terms of biodiversity and climate change goals, economic benefits, and eco-health.

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Preparing for climate change

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We brought Professor Reed Noss (University of Central Florida) to Toronto to kickstart a conversation on creating wildlife corridors across southern and eastern Ontario. Climate change and rising temperatures (4 degrees or more by 2050) means wildlife and plants have to adapt, and the region as a whole needs connected systems of natural areas to ensure wildlife’s long-term health and quality-of-life.

This year we will continue to develop a long term vision and strategy for biodiversity, with the Greenbelt at the heart of a regional protected landscape.

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Partnerships and knowledge sharing with Ontario’s planners 

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We invited a group of registered professional planners (RPPs) to join us for our very first "Planning for Agriculture" workshop.

The goal was to assist RPPs to address particular planning issues facing Ontario’s farm communities. The enthusiastic feedback we received suggests that Ontario’s planners are excited to learn more about improving outcomes for the farm community.

We’re looking forward to building on the workshop's success to unveil new workshop topics, to further explore the planning issues facing the farm community, and ultimately, to increasing the viability of farming in the Greenbelt.

 

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NumberS_10.pngLeveraging green infrastructure and natural capital in Ontario’s Greenbelt

Photo_7.jpgOur research team is busy working on two important projects that will help us to quantify, and amplify the significant natural capital the Greenbelt provides.

We’re in the midst of updating a 2008 David Suzuki Foundation study that, for the first time, estimated the economic benefit of the Greenbelt’s many ecological services: services ranging from water purification, to carbon storage, to flood control. 

At the same time, we’re beginning to explore the Greenbelt’s green infrastructure potential.

We know, for example, that the Greenbelt's ecosystems already provide infrastructure services, including storm water management and water quality improvement. Our initial research suggests however, that the Greenbelt could be doing so much more.

Even more exciting, the interventions needed to further increase the Greenbelt's green infrastructure potential would likely cost a fraction of what it costs to create and maintain the grey infrastructure needed to provide the same level of service.

We’re looking forward to exploring and sharing the immense value of the Greenbelt's forests, rivers, and wetlands.

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The voices and innovation of Greenbelt youth 

ECOSPARKBEST.jpgEarly in 2015, the Greenbelt Foundation provided a grant to environmental education organization, EcoSpark, to bring youth voices into the Greenbelt conversation. Turns out, students had a lot to say!

On November 5 2015, 18 GTA Greenbelt Youth Ambassadors presented the first-ever Greenbelt Youth Charter to an audience of over 150 people at Dunbarton High School in Pickering. Since then, the Youth Ambassadors have continued to share their Charter with communities and elected officials across the region and will continue to share the youth voice throughout the second phase of the Greenbelt Review. 

Ecospark is also in the process of working with schools across the region as part of their 10 for 10 Greenbelt Youth Campaign; the project will see $10,000 distributed among 10 schools (up to $1,000 per school) to support projects that promote and protect Ontario’s Greenbelt. The projects will be announced shortly! Can’t wait to see what kinds of creative projects our Greenbelt youth have dreamed up. 
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