The Greenbelt Foundation

A Message from our CEO

We are living in unprecedented times – however, the Greenbelt continues to provide unique benefits and opportunities for Ontario and Canada’s most densely populated region.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation has focused on doing our part to support social and economic recovery. We are aware that many of our key partners and sectors have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic but we have also seen impressive determination and innovation in their response. Working closely with our diverse partners and communities, we will seek to protect and get the best from the Greenbelt’s 2.1 million acres of near-urban nature and prime farmland, including enhanced climate resilience, a reliable local food source, and economic opportunities for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

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A key area of focus this year has been our natural asset management program. With the help of a range of partners, including all levels of government, we can save money on built infrastructure by investing in nature. When formally managed, Greenbelt ecosystems and landforms provide many crucial services that provide increased climate resilience for Ontario communities, good jobs for local workers, and important greenspace for residents.

This year saw a number of important milestones for the Foundation. In February 2020, we celebrated our 15th anniversary and the impact of a decade and a half of work. To mark this special occasion, we were joined at Queen’s Park by community members, stakeholders, and representatives from all provincial parties. At the event, we also announced the coming together of the Greenbelt Foundation and Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation - building on a strong set of shared values and continuing the important work of protecting and enhancing the Moraine.

The Oak Ridges Moraine is among the most important natural features in the Greenbelt, inextricably linked to regional prosperity, water supply for millions of Ontarians, and our ability as a region to adapt to climate change. With support from the Ontario government, we look forward to ensuring that the legacy and investment of the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation continues through Greenbelt research, community engagement, and grant making.

Looking forward, we are focused on helping Ontario and Canada build back better from COVID-19. We are deeply grateful for all the hard work of our partners during this challenging time. I would like to thank the Government of Ontario for their ongoing and critical support. I would also like to thank the private-sector funders who have supported the Foundation, allowing us to go even further in building a resilient, sustainable, and prosperous Greenbelt.

Regardless of what the future holds, the Greenbelt Foundation will continue to steward the Greenbelt so that all Canadians can benefit from the clean air and water, climate change solutions, and economic benefits it provides.


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Edward McDonnell
Chief Executive Officer, Greenbelt Foundation

Key Accomplishments in 2019/20

Through our strategic investments, leadership and research, we help partners, including all levels of government, leverage the Greenbelt’s natural features and working landscape to:

  • Protect Ontario communities from the impacts of climate change.
  • Ensure residents have access to high-quality greenspace, boosting mental health.
  • Improve municipal infrastructure by investing in Greenbelt nature.
  • Increase benefits and opportunities for Ontario’s Tourism and Recreation sectors.
  • Support innovation in Greenbelt-area agriculture.
  • Ensure that Ontarians have access to healthy, local food.

Since 2005, the Greenbelt Foundation has:

Leveraged and invested approximately $100 million in strategic projects and partnerships.

Awarded grants to more than 300 organizations.

Engaged research partners to support advancements in climate change resiliency, a sustainable local food system, and stronger rural economies.

Consulted with government on policies concerning the Greenbelt and its natural heritage and agricultural systems.

The Greenbelt:

Generates 9.6 billion annually in economic activity through farming, recreation, tourism and more, resulting directly from its protected status.

Creates 177,700 local full-time equivalent jobs, and supports rural economic activity and community vitality.

On February 25th, 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation and Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation announced a historic joining of forces. Stemming from the belief that more can be accomplished together than separately, our two organizations will work on a set of shared priorities that ensure the ongoing stewardship and protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine for generations to come.

The Oak Ridges Moraine is amongst the most important natural features in the Greenbelt, widely recognized for its unique hydrological functions. The Moraine spans approximately 190,000 hectares of mostly forested land and provides clean drinking water to over 250,000 people in the region.

The Greenbelt’s near-urban nature is comprised of forests, river valleys, wetlands, savannahs, and other ecological features that surround and intersect our communities. These natural areas provide crucial infrastructural services that aid us in the fight against climate change. Their important greenspaces support the mental and physical well-being of our community members. The Greenbelt is also home to some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in Canada, as well as 78 species-at-risk.

The Greenbelt’s natural systems provides $3.2 billion in ecosystem services to Ontario communities, through flood protection, water purification, and stormwater management.

Through research and investments, the Greenbelt Foundation helps government partners use near-urban nature as a cost-effective solution to climate change, infrastructure renewal, job-creation, and a green recovery from COVID-19.

Natural Asset Management

Identifying and understanding the value of ecosystem services has never been more important. Communities across Canada face the dual challenges of climate change and economic strain posed by COVID-19—issues like flooding and droughts are becoming more common and yet municipal infrastructure budgets are more strained than ever. Fortunately, both issues can be addressed with natural solutions.

The Greenbelt Foundation is working with Municipal Natural Assets Initiatives (MNAI) on a 3 year-project that enables Ontario municipalities to understand and invest in nature in order to create better climate resilience and strengthen infrastructure, all while saving money and creating jobs.

As part of this effort, in early March 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation and MNAI announced a flagship project in the Greenbelt’s Grindstone Creek. Through a site-specific evaluation, planning, and implementation process, the Greenbelt Foundation and MNAI will work with the cities of Hamilton and Burlington, Halton Region, Conservation Halton, and Royal Botanical Gardens to develop an asset management plan for the Grindstone Creek watershed. This plan will help cost-effectively address local flood-risk and water contamination in Hamilton Harbour.

Investing in the Future

Through a unique research project, the Greenbelt Foundation examined the economic case for investing in nature. Three case studies explored how municipal natural asset management can help communities to reduce reliance on expensive built infrastructure, mitigate the effects of extreme weather, and create much-needed jobs for workers.

The Greenbelt Foundation partnered with three conservation authorities to determine the return-on-investment of ecological restoration efforts in their jurisdictions: the Brock Lands, Saltfleet Conservation Area, and Lake Scugog.

Economic Impact of Green Infrastructure

The Greenbelt Foundation funded this first-ever assessment of the full scope of Ontario’s green infrastructure sector, undertaken by the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition and its partners. The project revealed that green infrastructure in Ontario generates $8.6 billion in gross revenue and $4.64 billion in gross domestic product, while employing roughly 84,400 people in 2018.

Factoring in the indirect and induced impacts, Ontario’s green infrastructure sector was responsible for more than 120,000 jobs and nearly $8.33 billion in GDP in 2018

Connecting Residents to River Valleys

The Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program, run in association with Park People, connects residents with their local Greenbelt-protected urban river valley through community-based outreach, stewardship and education initiatives. Over three years (2018-2021), fifteen grants are being dispersed to support local leaders and community partners in providing nature-based programming and restoration activities that improve the ecological health of the Greenbelt’s 21 Urban River Valleys.

To date, 3,265 residents have been engaged, self-guided digital wayfinding stations have been setup along Bowmanville and Soper Creeks, over 9000 native plants have been planted, three important stream restoration projects have been completed, and tree canopy has been enhanced in many areas, reducing habitat fragmentation, increasing climate resilience and protecting biodiversity.

For the 2020 year, programming is being revised to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

In September of 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation supported a program launch event at Doctors MacLean Park in Vaughan with Mayor Bevilacqua, celebrating the five successful grantee projects for 2019/20.

Personalizing Climate Change

The Greenbelt Foundation’s In a Changing Climate series of visual reports ask how everyday things are impacted by climate change. The purpose of the series is to help make climate change—an often complicated, confusing subject—more relatable. In 2019 and 2020, the Foundation released a number of installments of the series, which covered topics from hockey, to biodiversity, to fresh water.

In October of 2019, the Foundation released Mental Health in a Changing Climate, which looks at how environmental crisis affects the human psyche. We collaborated with Alliance for Healthier Communities and researchers from Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto to publish two reports and three public briefs that unpack the mental health impacts of climate change on three vulnerable groups in the Greater Golden Horseshoe – women, youth and newcomers. We were very pleased to partner with Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network (CEGN) and the Ivey Foundation on this installment of the series and we thank them for their support.

Climate Modelling

In order to prepare for climate change, Ontario communities need to understand what their future climate will look like. The Greenbelt Foundation partnered with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority to provide updated climate projections for the Greenbelt’s municipalities and watersheds.

Using an ensemble of climate models, this project provides accurate climate projections for weather averages and extremes, helping the region to get climate ready. Data taken from this project will inform everything from the region’s climate adaptation planning efforts, to its watershed planning documents and municipal planning review, to its official plans, policies and programs. It will also help identify potential sites where natural solutions to climate change can be developed.

With excellent soil, a long growing season and close proximity to major urban markets, the Greenbelt is one of the country’s most important growing regions.

Over the past fifteen years, the Greenbelt Foundation and its sister organization, the Greenbelt Fund, have supported over 240 local food projects, increasing local food sales by over $260 million and providing a 19:1 return-on-investment. We have strengthened the local food system from farmer to retailer. We will continue to support rural economic recovery from COVID-19 by continuing to support innovation in the local food sector and a robust and sustainable local food economy.

The Greenbelt is home to 4,783 farms, earning 68% more revenue per acre than the average Ontario farm.

Greenbelt Farmers Markets Go Online

Our local Greenbelt farmers are foundational to our region’s food supply. Over 50% of Ontario fruit and over 10% of all Ontario vegetables are grown in the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is also home to over 70% of the province's greenhouse capacity.

To ensure the ongoing sustainability of this important sector throughout COVID-19, the Foundation supported the Greenbelt Farmers Market Network in pivoting their operations to bring key markets online, recovering income for farmers and providing a reliable source of local food for consumers.

Launching District Ventures Kitchens

In November 2019, the Greenbelt Fund and City of Toronto supported Foodstarter, an important agri-food incubator, in relaunching as District Ventures Kitchen.

Since its inception in 2017, Foodstarter has supported over 300 Ontario food entrepreneurs by providing access to shared production and packaging facilities, business advisory services, and a structured training program. As District Ventures Kitchen, the facility will support roughly 500 jobs and pave a promising road forward for local food entrepreneurs and the local food system, as a whole.

Climate Smart Agriculture

Canada’s farmers are on the frontlines of worsening climate impacts. Adaptation strategies are needed to maintain yield and farm profitability. The Greenbelt Foundation is supporting research into best approaches to improving soil health as well as the barriers farmers face in adopting these best management practices, working with an Ontario advisory committee of farm organizations, as well as Quebec-based Equiterre and its national advisory committee. The research underway will help to identify innovative federal policies that would support improved soil health and associated climate benefits.

Through improvements to soil health practices, the Greenbelt Foundation is seeking to contribute to long-term agricultural sustainability, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from farming, and help the agriculture sector adapt to a changing climate.

Ontario’s Greenbelt is over 2 million acres of lush hiking trails, prolific cycling routes, dramatic shorelines and accessible river valleys that can be enjoyed on foot, or by bicycle, canoe or kayak. Beyond its natural attractions, the Greenbelt is a thriving, working landscape, with a diversity of small towns and rural businesses.

Over 76 million people visit the Greenbelt each year, contributing $3 billion and supporting 75,000 local jobs in the tourism and recreation sector.

Through research and investments, the Greenbelt Foundation helps drive tourism and recreation in the Greenbelt. This supports rural economies and helps Ontarians understand the multitude of opportunities the Greenbelt offers for enjoying a low-carbon, healthy active lifestyle, particularly during COVID-19.

State of Large Parks

Large parks are a legacy of visionaries who understood the important role greenspace plays in having healthy communities. This first-ever report, undertaken as a partnership between Greenbelt Foundation and Green Infrastructure Ontario, sought to understand how the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s large parks are holding up against population growth and environmental stressors.

The report finds that large parks in our region face pressures from increased visitation and that population growth will only exacerbate this. Unless coordinated action is taken to create more large parkland, we can expect a significant decline in the supply of these parks per resident.

Connecting New Canadians to Nature in the Greenbelt

New Canadians are a fast-growing population in the Greater Toronto Area. However, research suggests that they visit parks and outdoor areas less often than those born in Canada. With the importance of greenspace to mental and physical wellbeing in mind, the Greenbelt Foundation held six focus groups with Chinese New Canadians and South Asian New Canadians to understand what we could do to increase their engagement and awareness of outdoor recreation opportunities in the Greenbelt.

Through these focus groups, we uncovered a number of perceptions, barriers and engagement opportunities that we will factor into how we promote the Greenbelt and design future programming. The Greenbelt Foundation hosted a webinar to share results with interested stakeholders in the Tourism and Recreation industries and organizations that do nature-based programming.

Into the Greenbelt

Developed by the Greenbelt Foundation and Park People, in collaboration with regional Conservation Authorities and the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, this program removes economic barriers and brings new Canadians and underserved youth and seniors into Ontario’s Greenbelt for free, enriching day trips. Eight itineraries to conservation areas, pick-your-own-farms and other natural spaces were developed. In 2019, there were 44 trips with over 1,700 participants.

In November, a group of youth from Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton joined staff from the Greenbelt Foundation and Park People at Mountsberg Conservation Area to celebrate another great season of the Into the Greenbelt program.

Waterfront Regeneration Trust

Since 2012, the Greenbelt Foundation has supported the ongoing development of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, which connects the Greenbelt with 3000 km of trails traversing the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Nipissing. The trail also connects 140 cities, towns and First Nations; 33 provincial parks; 3 UNESCO world biosphere reserves; 169 beaches; and 21 national historic sites. The route is a dream for cycling enthusiasts, and a fantastic opportunity for families and amateur cyclists interested in exploring the varied landscapes and communities of Ontario.

In August of 2019, the Greenbelt Foundation supported the launch of the “Huron North Corridor,” with a culminating event at Science North in Sudbury.

The Moccasin Identifier Project

After years of dedication by Carolyn King (former Chief of Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation), and with support from the Greenbelt Foundation, The Moccasin Identifier Project has come to fruition with 10 “moccasin identifier” installations and an innovative school toolkit.

A “moccasin identifier” is a visual representation of a moccasin stamped or carved into the landscape, be it on a sidewalk, stone or wall. Ten permanent installations have been completed, marking culturally significant locations for First Nations peoples across southern Ontario, with more on the way. An innovative school toolkit is being piloted with various schoolboards, conservation authorities, art galleries, museums, municipalities, libraries, parks organizations and NGOs across the region. It will help educators across the region teach their students about the history and current presence of Indigenous communities on the land.

Our Partners

The Greenbelt Foundation’s achievements would be impossible without the ongoing support of its partners, donors and the dedicated governance of its Board of Directors. Our partners include a range of organizations with whom we collaborate to fund key projects and support important research initiatives. Our work is also made possible by our dedicated individual donors and supporters. We thank all of you for your support and commitment.

The Greenbelt Foundation would like to pay special thanks to the Government of Ontario for their ongoing, committed support of our work.

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environment and climate change canada natural resources canada metcalf ivey foundation rbc foundation consecon city of toronto peterborough hunter
boys and girls club canada logo conserving canada's wetlands logo eco health ontario logo eco spark logo environmental defence logo soil health coalition logo green infrastructure ontario coalition logo toronto and region conservation authority logo town of halton hills logo municipal leaders for the greenbelt logo making nature count logo natural resources canada logo ontario federation of agriculture logo ontario greenbelt alliance logo ontario nature logo park people logo rink watch logo royal botanical gardens logo royal ontario museum logo simcoe muskoka district health unit logo golden horseshoe food and farming alliance logo laurier logo


In 2019/20, the Greenbelt Foundation invested in a range of key partnerships, educational initiatives, research and policy work and community programs.

Year ended March 31, 2020 / Our charitable ratio: 85%


program activities: grants $1,478,061; awareness and education $979,524; research and policy $703,262; community programs $606,621
supporting activities: management and general $552,913; fundraising, business development $129,167

*Each year, KPMG audits our financial records. Our full financial audit can be found online at

Thank you!

From the entire team at the Greenbelt Foundation, thank you for taking the time to learn about us!

The Greenbelt Foundation is made up of a vibrant team of program leaders, research and policy experts, development and communications specialists and much more. We come together with varied expertise to support a unified vision of keeping the Greenbelt a healthy, resilient and productive working landscape for Ontario—and one of Canada’s best resources in the fight against climate change! We would not be able to achieve any of our work without the dedicated support of our funders, partners and community members like you.

the greenbelt team