A Message from Our Chair

board chair picture

Ontario’s Greenbelt—the world’s largest—has a long and rich history of serving Ontarians.

We have had another challenging year given the global pandemic, but the Greenbelt continued to serve Ontarians by providing clean air, fresh water, varied opportunities for recreation, important natural solutions to climate change, and a reliable local food source. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greenbelt Foundation has shifted how we engage with our partners, stakeholders, and audiences, but our vision has remained the same.

Our vision of the Greenbelt is clear: a vibrant and healthy Greenbelt with protected natural ecosystems; a thriving rural economy based on a robust agricultural sector and a growing recreation, culture, and tourism sector; and patterns of urban settlement that support the integrity of the Greenbelt and honour the intent of the Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Our board of directors has been steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the Greenbelt Foundation continues to play its role of stewardship and investing in the Greenbelt for the benefit of Ontarians. We are deeply proud of the Greenbelt, which currently contributes an estimated $9.6 billion annually to Ontario's GDP, supports 177,700 full-time or full-time equivalent jobs, and provides Ontario communities with $3.2 billion worth of ecosystem services each year. The more we invest in the Greenbelt, the more benefits are provided to Ontario’s communities and economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also illuminated the importance of accessible greenspace. As research repeatedly shows us, time spent in nature has proven benefits to physical and mental health. As Ontario’s population booms, the need for accessible greenspace is only mounting.

From the entire Board of Directors at the Greenbelt Foundation and all staff, I would like to thank the Government of Ontario for its ongoing financial support, as well as its continued commitment to growing the Greenbelt. The unique benefits of growing the Greenbelt are becoming even more apparent as our population grows; as we continue to see increased demand for local food and increased pressure on our water systems; and as challenges associated with climate change mount. Growing the Greenbelt is the right thing to do. Protecting its current geography and ensuring well-proven policies are enforced is critical to the Greenbelt’s long-term integrity and success.

I thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Greenbelt Foundation. The Greenbelt is an incredible resource for Ontario and one that we must continue to learn from, steward, and grow—both for today, as well as for future generations. Together with all staff, we will support the Foundation in bringing out the best the Greenbelt has to offer.

David McKeown
Chair, Board of Directors, Greenbelt Foundation

A Message from our CEO

ceo picture

It goes without saying that the past year has been challenging for communities across Ontario.

One silver lining has been the opportunity to spend more time exploring nature. In southern Ontario, we are incredibly fortunate to have the Greenbelt that surrounds the Greater Golden Horseshoe—Canada’s most rapidly urbanizing region. The Greenbelt contains some of the province’s most important natural areas, like the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment, and 21 urban river valleys.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Greenbelt Foundation has focused attention on stewarding and increasing safe access to the Greenbelt. We have also supported the Greenbelt businesses that power our rural economy. From investments in expanding Ontario’s local fruit and vegetable sector, to bringing Greenbelt Farmers Markets online, to supporting ecotourism in Bruce Peninsula, the Greenbelt and Foundation are playing important roles in helping our rural economy recover from COVID-19.

Another focus for the Foundation has been promoting green infrastructure and natural asset management as a solution to climate change and costly infrastructure needs. We have worked with organizations like Green Infrastructure Ontario to capture the monumental contribution Green Infrastructure makes to Ontario’s economy. Meanwhile, we have continued to work with partners, like Municipal Natural Assets Initiative, to support municipalities in using their natural assets to protect their communities against climate change impacts.

In March of 2021, we launched a Near-Urban Nature Network with the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition; a landmark project on the protection of near-urban nature in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. We are very proud of the collaboration undertaken to get this important work off the ground.

In February of 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation was pleased to support the Government of Ontario’s commitment to expanding the quality and quantity of Ontario’s Greenbelt. We issued a new “Growing the Greenbelt” grant stream, that supported resource-constrained civil society groups participate in the Government of Ontario’s public consultation process. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government and key stakeholders to realize a vision of meaningful growth.

Also in February of 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation signed another three-year agreement with the Government of Ontario. With $12 million in renewed funding, the Greenbelt Foundation will continue conducting applied research and providing strategic grants that protect and enhance Ontario’s Greenbelt and improve understanding of its economic, environmental, and social benefits.

There has never been a more important time to protect our natural areas. This year again, our partners have worked hard to ensure the Greenbelt remains prosperous and protected, and we are deeply grateful for that. From all of us at the Greenbelt Foundation, we thank you for your interest in our work and look forward to supporting Ontario communities as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edward McDonnell
Chief Executive Officer, Greenbelt Foundation

The Greenbelt Foundation

The Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, and the only organization solely dedicated to ensuring Ontario’s Greenbelt remains permanent, protected, and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural, and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all. Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands, and rivers, working together to provide clean air, fresh water, and a reliable local food source.

At its core, Greenbelt Foundation is a research and grant-making organization that supports and collaborates with other organizations and actors to further the mission of Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan. Our work centres on protecting and investing in near-urban nature, natural infrastructure, and climate resilience; supporting local Greenbelt farmers and the rural agricultural sector and economy; promoting the vast and varied tourism and recreation opportunities that the Greenbelt offers; and engaging Ontarians in enjoying and helping to keep the Greenbelt thriving.

The work we do in the Greenbelt supports all levels of government and helps to inform work that can be done all across the country to protect natural areas, especially those in heavily developed regions.

quote mark The Foundation has been a trusted and strategic partner to us in Burlington and Halton Region. It has an excellent track record, expertise, and relationships that will ensure that the Greenbelt continues to protect and improve the quality of life for Ontarians. — Marianne Meed Ward, Mayor of Burlington

Key Accomplishments

  • $12 million in renewed funding secured, ensuring Foundation activities continue
  • 10 natural asset inventory programs
  • Improvements made to municipal-Indigenous relations around land-use issues
  • Growing the Greenbelt grant stream opened, supporting public consultation
  • Near-Urban Nature Network launched, increasing protection of nature in the region

The Greenbelt Foundation

$100+ million in strategic projects and partnerships

300+ organizations awarded grants

13 published reports stemming from strategic research projects

The Greenbelt

$9.6 billion contributed annually in economic activity

$3.2 billion contributed annually in ecosystem services

177,700 jobs supported (full-time or equivalent)

9 out of 10 Ontarians in favour of the Greenbelt

Spotlight: Update on Oak Ridges Moraine

Since February 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation and Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation have been integrated, working collectively to preserve, protect, and restore the environmental and agricultural integrity of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

update on oak ridges moraine

The Oak Ridges Moraine Act and Plan focus on the protection of the hydrologic and natural heritage systems that the ORM supports. The Moraine is an iconic and critically important natural feature of southern Ontario, and a unique ecological and geographical feature of the Greenbelt. It is known as "the rain barrel of southern Ontario" due to its crucial contribution to regional groundwater that provides drinking water to about 250,000 Ontarians. In fact, more than 80 watersheds originate on the Moraine and over six million people live in the watersheds flowing off the moraine.

In addition to its critical role as a hydrologic feature, it is also a vital natural heritage system with about 30 per cent forest cover, some of which is unique interior forest, such as found at the Fleetwood Creek conservation area. Home to 78 species at risk, it is an area of exceptional biodiversity. As for recreational facilities, the ORM offers a trail along its length to provide residents with access to nature and physical and mental well-being.

The Greenbelt Foundation established a new Oak Ridges Moraine Committee of its Board of Directors to oversee this work. As the Chair of this Committee, I have had the pleasure of working with Greenbelt Foundation staff to engage Oak Ridges Moraine Trail stakeholders to understand the status and challenges associated with the vision and success of the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail—an important legacy project. We are eagerly working toward its advancement.

As part of our work plan, the Committee will be focusing on:

Engagement to increase education and awareness of the Oak Ridges Moraine and the importance of its water resource systems to the region and revive public interest and community engagement to protect and steward the Oak Ridges Moraine through virtual events and interviews.

Restoration by continuing efforts to promote natural infrastructure in the ORM as part of its Positively Green project and report on progress.

Trail Strategy to guide the planning, development, and management of the ORM Trail.

Robert Messervey Headshot

ORM Trail/Signs and Placemaking where existing signage and way-finding will be evaluated with the goal of maintaining and enhancing Trail signs and interpretative installations.

Preserving the Legacy to support research into the ORMF legacy documents housed at Wilfred Laurier University to advance its legacy and inform future work.

Robert Messervey
Chair, Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation and Member, Greenbelt Foundation Board of Directors

Committee Members: Mary Lou Tanner, David Oved, Sue McGovern, and Ray Duc

Near-urban nature is comprised of the forests, river valleys, wetlands, farmland, and other ecological features that surround and intersect urban communities. In the Greenbelt, near-urban nature contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity in Canada, with more species-at-risk than anywhere else in Ontario.

These areas also perform an under-recognized function as natural infrastructure. Healthy forests, wetlands, and rivers provide local governments with core infrastructure services, such as stormwater management, that contribute to climate resilience by preventing flooding, protecting freshwater, and offsetting the urban heat-island effect.

The Greenbelt Foundation is Canada’s largest third-party investor in municipal natural asset management programs. Our vision is to mainstream the protection and use of natural assets, and to make near-urban nature an integral part of key government environmental conservation programs.

Municipal Natural Asset Inventory Program

Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) and the Greenbelt Foundation have worked together since 2018 to enable Ontario municipalities to invest in nature as a way of creating better climate resilience, strengthening infrastructure at reduced cost, and protecting near-urban natural systems.

In fact, Canadian municipalities are learning that natural assets can often provide the same level of infrastructure service as engineered assets, with higher resilience and adaptability to climate change, but with lower capital, operating, maintenance, and renewal costs.

In 2020 and through 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation and MNAI are supporting 10 Ontario municipalities in developing natural asset inventories. These 10 are part of a cohort of over 30 municipalities nationally—the largest cluster in the country—to complete inventories. Through the process, municipalities detail the type of natural assets relied upon, as well as their condition and the risks they face. A natural asset inventory is an essential first step in a full municipal natural asset management plan.

quote mark A changing climate in Dufferin County poses risks to municipal natural assets, which provide critical and cost-effective services like stormwater management, water filtration, or flood and erosion protection for our communities. This inventory will serve as a valuable tool in further understanding our municipal natural assets and enhancing management strategies to increase community resilience to the impacts of climate change and reduce local greenhouse gas emissions. — Sara Wicks, Manager of Climate and Energy, County of Dufferin, Ontario

Near-Urban Nature Network: A Solution to Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss

In May 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation led the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC) in releasing Near-Urban Nature Network: A Solution to Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss, a short summary report of solutions for protecting near-urban nature in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, with lessons that can be applied across Canada.

This report is the first of its kind and stems from two years of consultations and the development of a network of protected natural areas in and around the Greenbelt region.

Key strategies uncovered by the report will support all levels of government, as well as other organizations and community leaders, in conserving near-urban nature across the country. In the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, these efforts will be critical to providing social and economic benefits to one in four Canadians.

To date, SONC has engaged over 200 people, including local governments, conservation authority staff, farmers, community groups, other not-for-profits, and interested First Nations to identify solutions and opportunities. A full report was released in July 2021.

quote mark Our government is proud to support and invest in the work of the Greenbelt Foundation and its partners to create a Near-Urban Nature Network. We share the goal of protecting and enhancing the Greenbelt, as outlined in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, and practical solutions like these to protect and enhance the resilience of important natural areas in near-urban areas will mean more sustainable greenspaces for future generations to use and enjoy. — Jeff Yurek, former Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks

The Business Case for EcoHealth in Ontario

In May 2021, Greenbelt Foundation and EcoHealth Ontario released two new case studies and one survey design that showcase the economic, public health, and community well-being benefits of urban greenspace.

The two reports—Increasing Tree Canopy, Brampton and Downtown Urban Park, Peterborough—will help municipalities and other levels of government implement tree planting programs and improvements to public greenspace that benefit urban residents.

The reports find that accessible greenspace provides a positive return-on-investment over the long-term, including to public health. In the Brampton case study, it was found that additional tree coverage could dramatically reduce extreme heat days in the community. By increasing tree canopy up to 80 per cent in some areas, the number of projected annual extreme heat days could be cut in half by 2080. The resulting health systems savings could be up to $3.2 billion annually.

quote mark Ecological goods and service valuations for natural assets have been used to inform decisions about land-use planning, conservation, and ecological restoration projects. Many municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe are currently assessing the infrastructure services provided by natural assets to identify cost effective management options for maintaining service levels in a changing climate. In much the same way, these new case studies consider the important healthcare services provided by urban greenspace or ‘green infrastructure’ and can similarly inform decisions about the design and composition of our cities and towns — Tom Bowers on behalf of EcoHealth Ontario, Interim Director of Research and Policy, Greenbelt Foundation

Cooling Corridors and Urban Forests in a Changing Climate

Over the past year, the Greenbelt Foundation released two reports that look at the role urban forests play in making Canadian communities more resilient to climate change.

Cooling Corridors: the Role of Green Infrastructure in Building Resilience to Extreme Heat

Created in partnership with Dr. Umberto Berardi of Ryerson University and released by the Greenbelt Foundation in May 2020, this is the first report of its kind that quantifies the positive impact the Greenbelt’s urban river valleys have on local temperature.

The report illustrates how these areas provide cooling benefits and build local resilience to climate change. It indicates how increasing tree cover in and around urban river valleys can offset many health risks associated with extreme heat. The report lays out principles for stewarding and growing urban forests effectively, and is a guiding resource for municipal governments, organizations, and community leaders.

quote mark This report provides evidence based on novel research developed with state-of-the-art technology on the role that the Greenbelt’s urban river valleys play in providing localized cooling effects. My research group—as well as Ryerson University—has always been committed to working for urban innovation and we are proud to have contributed this research to present new investigations towards local possibilities that address the challenges faced by the climate crisis. — Dr. Umberto Berardi, Associate Professor, Ryerson University
Urban Forests in a Changing Climate Report

This report, released by the Greenbelt Foundation in September of 2020, is part of the In a Changing Climate series of visual reports (2018–2020) that explain how everyday things are being impacted by climate change.

The purpose of these reports is to help make climate change—an often abstract and confusing subject—more relatable to Ontarians, while sharing important insight about strategies for addressing climate change within a given sector.

This edition conveys how Ontario’s urban forests will both be impacted by climate change and also critical to climate resilience. It includes important research by Jacqueline L. Scott, a University of Toronto PhD candidate and founder of Black Outdoors.

Scott’s research shows that while tree-planting initiatives seek to improve tree canopy in urbanized areas, these initiatives are usually white-dominated, and can be exclusionary to racialized peoples. Scott provides practical steps that can be taken to create more inclusive programs and help provide better access to urban forests for marginalized communities.

quote mark Planting trees is one of the easiest ways to improve the environment in the city and to reduce the negative impact of the climate crisis. However, race shapes where trees are planted, who benefits from the trees, and who takes part in tree planting. — Jacqueline L. Scott, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto and Founder of Black Outdoors

Economic Impact of the Green Infrastructure Sector

Released by the Foundation in June 2020, the new Economic Impact Assessment of the Green Infrastructure Sector in Ontario is the first report to assess the full scope of the sector’s contribution to Ontario’s economy.

The report finds that green infrastructure in Ontario generates $8.6 billion in revenue, $4.64 billion in gross domestic product, and employs approximately 84,400 people. 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.

Current trends show significant growth potential as public awareness and attitudes toward the sector evolve. This report promotes the meaningful role Green Infrastructure plays in today’s economy, as well as the vital role it can play in the economy of tomorrow.

The report was commissioned by the Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition (GIO) and funded by the Greenbelt Foundation, with additional financial support from Landscape Ontario.

quote mark We were pleased to see that at $4.64 billion in direct GDP, Ontario’s green infrastructure sector was 28 per cent larger than the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing sector ($3.4 billion in GDP) and 31 per cent larger than the computer and electronic product manufacturing sector ($3.5 billion GDP). Having a comparison with other sectors helps us understand the economic importance and relevance of green infrastructure. But the real story is in the jobs; with 84,400 direct jobs in 2018, green infrastructure employs five times more people than the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing sector (16,335 jobs) and three times more people than the computer and electronic product manufacturing sector (26,600 jobs). — Jennifer Court, Executive Director, Green Infrastructure Ontario

Farmland has been disappearing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe at an alarming rate—more than 450,000 acres of farmland has been lost since 1991. The good news is, the Greenbelt has changed the course within its boundaries.

Ontario’s Greenbelt preserves 750,000 acres of some of Canada’s most fertile farmland within one of its most favourable growing climates. The Greenbelt’s agricultural system is the cornerstone of the rural economy. It includes Ontario’s only two specialty crop areas—the Holland Marsh and the Niagara Tender Fruit and Grape Area—whose fertile soils and unique climate conditions allow Greenbelt farmers to grow over 50 per cent of the province’s fruit acreage and 10 per cent of its vegetable acreage.

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

The Power of Soil

In March 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation and Équiterre released The Power of Soil - An Agenda for Change to Benefit Farmers and Climate Resilience, a report that illustrates how healthy soils will help Canada’s farmers adapt to climate change and play an important role in mitigation.

Building on previous work, this report offers a comprehensive overview of Canada’s agri-environmental policy, provides practical solutions to improving soil health, and bridges existing knowledge gaps. Report findings resulted from wisdom and consensus building among leading agricultural organizations, advisory committees, and other actors from two of Canada’s most important food-producing regions: Ontario and Quebec.

The report highlights innovative policies and programs, like the creation of a “National Soil Health Network,” a national soil health “check-up tool,” and soil health training programs for advisors and farmers. Some best management practices, like reduced tillage, planting diverse cover crops, and keeping living roots in soil all year round, are promoted.

Contributors include the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, National Farmers Union, academics from the University of Guelph, and Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, among other leading groups and individuals.

quote mark Agricultural soil health is directly connected to the food production system and economic growth in Ontario. Investment in environmental best management practices is a key driver for farmers as effective stewards of the land, as they work to promote soil health initiatives on their farms. Making soil health a priority improves profitability, productivity, and protects the environment at the same time — Drew Spoelstra, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Plant the Seeds Update and Farmer Profiles

Building on a report released in 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation released an updated Plant the Seeds - Opportunities to Grow Ontario’s Fruit and Vegetable Sector report in June 2021 that uncovers even greater opportunity to expand Ontario’s fruit and vegetable sector, including production of local apples, snap beans, and two kinds of cabbage.

The full expansion opportunity represents a $135 million increase in possible farm-gate revenues ($35 million outlined in the 2021 report, on top of the $100 million opportunity outlined in the 2020 report). Collectively, this could make an important contribution to Ontario’s rural economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accompanying the report, are farmer profiles that provide concrete examples of the farmers who are already pursuing these expansion opportunities, as well as their challenges, successes, and insights.

quote mark This report is very timely. As Canadians emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, it is my hope that the public and governments have a new appreciation for food sovereignty and security. As we continue to address ongoing challenges in the agri-food sector, such as competing in a global market and declining margins, we must also explore opportunities to increase Ontario production. — Alison Robertson, Executive Director, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA)

Farming in a Changing Climate

Farming in a Changing Climate, another edition of the In a Changing Climate series of reports, released in October 2020, provides a field-level view of what a rapidly changing climate means for farming in Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The report finds that southern Ontario will face wetter conditions in the spring and fall, more freeze-thaw cycles in the winter, and hotter, drier summers punctuated with uniquely powerful storms.

The impacts of these changes on agriculture vary: wet spring conditions can delay planting; hotter summers put livestock and farm workers at risk; flash storms can wash away our soils, while mid-summer droughts can reduce crop yields. Without deep freezes in the winter, pests and diseases become rampant in new areas. All these challenges are compounded by the pressures associated with COVID-19 facing farmers.

According to the report, improving soil health and managing water will be critical to meeting the challenges of the future. Technology can also play an important role. For instance, better weather forecasting instruments will give farmers more time to prepare for disruptive weather.

quote mark Farmers are always at the whim of Mother Nature. But facing a changing climate, we will need to play even more of an intervening role going forward. We’ll have to use all the tools we have in order to keep farming. — Amy Ouchterlony, Fiddle Foot Farm

Complete Communities

Growing Close to Home: Creating Complete Rural Communities is a report released by the Greenbelt Foundation in June 2020 that describes how rural communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe are taking strides to become more ‘complete’ and attract diverse residents and businesses. As Ontario communities recover from COVID-19, there is an opportunity to build back better.

The report shares insights and lessons learned from municipalities across the Greenbelt about making communities more livable and prosperous. This includes increasing housing options, providing a wider range of transportation infrastructure, and engaging in meaningful public consultation, all while protecting rural character, farmland, and the environment. With COVID-19 creating a renewed interest in staying close to home, complete communities that meet all the needs of their residents—without requiring long commutes to other areas for work, shopping, or recreation—are increasingly relevant.

quote mark Improving quality of life should be a core goal for all communities. Ensuring a diversity of housing and improved opportunities for active and public transportation are key to this. Likewise, it is important to protect agricultural land and natural heritage. All of these things contribute to complete communities and enhanced quality of life. — Wayne Caldwell, Professor and Program Coordinator of Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph

Outcomes of Greenbelt Farmers Market Network Going Online

In Spring 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation supported the Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network in pivoting their operations to bring 30 key markets online, recovering income for farmers and providing a reliable source of local food for consumers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Digital Markets Program contributed sales of $1,259,930 to 537 local food vendors, with an average of $2,389 in sales per vendor. Five network-wide webinars with 65 market managers were held to share best practices on public health protocols for pick-ups and openings.

The Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network created a ‘COVID-19 Taskforce,’ composed of market managers and relevant professionals, who developed reopening guidelines and best practices for operations. An exhaustive toolkit was created and markets received one-on-one consultation on its usage.

Active conversations with the Government of Ontario, Toronto Public Health, and the City of Toronto staff took place to discuss essential business status, public health guidelines, and market reopening timelines.

quote mark Over the course of the season, there were over $650,000 in sales as markets and farmers learned to go digital at a rapid pace. Now we see a bright future where farmer’s markets and local farmers are more connected to their communities. — Daniel Taylor, Co-Director, Greenbelt Farmers Market Network

Ontario’s Greenbelt includes vibrant agricultural communities, 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 businesses that provide unique opportunities for locals and travelers alike looking to shop, dine, and support the rural economy.

Over 76 million people visit the Greenbelt each year, contributing $8.3 billion in GDP and supporting 161,500 local jobs in the sector.

The Greenbelt Foundation helps drive tourism and recreation in the Greenbelt.

We help Ontarians understand the variety of opportunities the Greenbelt offers for enjoying a low-carbon, healthy active lifestyle, particularly during COVID-19.

Moccasin Identifier

The Greenbelt Foundation continues to support the Moccasin Identifier as it works to raise awareness for the current and historical presence of diverse Indigenous Communities in the Greenbelt region.

The project installs representations of the distinct moccasins worn by Indigenous Communities to mark sites where First Nations and the Métis Nation have deep, ancestral ties to the landscape.

Between 2020–2021, the project created a new promotional video and project brief to support partnerships and reach new audiences. Previously, a school toolkit was developed with support from the Foundation and launched with local school boards, providing unique Indigenous-education curriculum opportunities and learnings grounded in Indigenous history, culture, and Reconciliation.

quote mark We are very grateful to the Greenbelt Foundation for its continued support of the Moccasin Identifier. Many Canadians now understand the significance of Reconciliation. Facilitating greater awareness of Treaties is the goal of the Moccasin Identifier. Let's continue covering Canada in moccasins — Carolyn King, Founder of the Moccasin Identifier and Member of the Order of Canada

Credit Valley Trail

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation supported the development of the Credit Valley Trail Experience Plan. This process worked toward implementation of a 100 kilometre Credit Valley Trail in order to promote tourism and integrate cultural, Indigenous, heritage, and ecological experiences along the banks of the Credit River—one of 21 Greenbelt-protected urban river valleys.

Through this project, the Credit Valley Conservation Foundation was able to complete two Experience Plans:

  1. Indigenous Experience Plan
  2. Natural and Cultural Heritage Destination Plan.

Aspects of an Arts, Culture, and Tourism Plan were also developed. Ultimately, the Credit Valley Trail seeks to change how residents interact with local river valleys in communities and educate a new generation of visitors about the importance of these systems.

quote mark Bringing the Credit Valley Trail to life is a collaborative effort carried out with the support and dedication of partners like the Greenbelt Foundation. The pandemic has shown us just how important access to nature is. Providing greater access to the natural beauty of the Greenbelt through the Credit Valley Trail will help ensure the long-term health and well-being of our communities. Funding to support the Credit Valley Trail Strategy and Indigenous Experience Plan has been critical to the design, development, and implementation of an immersive trail experience. Visitors can celebrate the unique natural and cultural heritage of the Credit River and learn about the rich history and enduring presence of Indigenous Peoples. Thank you to the Greenbelt Foundation for their generous investment in the future of our local communities and environment. — Deborah Martin-Downs, Chief Administrative Officer, Credit Valley Conservation

Bruce Peninsula EcoAdventures

In September 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation announced a grant to Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association (BPBA) for their EcoAdventures program. This program takes visitors in the Biosphere Reserve on eye-opening nature-based adventures, while learning about this uniquely beautiful area of global ecological and geological significance.

Through support offered by this grant, the BPBA has adapted the existing program to address COVID-19 restrictions, while undertaking program development for a post-COVID environment.

The program delivered four seasons of guided eco-tours (with participants from the same ‘bubble groups’ joining together). These tours intertwined ecological learning with hiking, snowshoeing, and cycling adventures in the northern Bruce Peninsula, at the tip of the Greenbelt. A website has been created, and social media and targeted print campaigns have been conducted to promote the project.

  • Over 90 eco-adventures have been delivered, with 650 participants.
  • The Eco-tour is ranked as the Top 5th Attraction in the region.
  • The program is one of three selected by Bruce County Tourism to be featured in a video production.
  • EcoAdventures contributed approximately $600,000 to the local economy.
  • BPBA addressed impacts of increased visitor traffic on the Peninsula’s iconic natural spaces.
quote mark Nature rejuvenates! The Greenbelt Foundation’s support for EcoAdventures helps visitors safely enjoy outdoor fun in their bubble groups while discovering why this area, which is part of Ontario’s Greenbelt, is a UN designated World Biosphere Reserve. — Elizabeth Thorn, Chair of the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association

Rivers for Resilience Campaign Launch and Videos

Stemming from the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program, the Rivers for Resilience campaign launched with Park People in March 2021 and used three high-quality, consumer-facing videos to promote the unique recreational, cultural, and ecological benefits of the 21 Greenbelt-protected urban river valleys.

Through the videos and a “closer than you think” tagline, viewers were introduced to a range of recreational opportunities in the urban river valleys, including kayaking, hiking, and jogging. Often overlooked as prime sites for recreation and connecting with nature, these videos remind viewers of the benefits of the valleys, profile leading stewards who protect them, and ask viewers to get involved in stewardship efforts.

The 21 Greenbelt-protected urban river valleys are significant ecological connections between the Greenbelt and Lake Ontario. The Greenbelt Foundation and Park People worked with a range of community partners to develop the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program, which ran from 2018–2020 and enhanced access to the Greenbelt’s urban river valleys.

quote mark The Greenbelt is a wonderful uniting force for connecting the impact of many diverse conservation and community groups across Ontario. Our urban river valleys bring nature through our cities, right to the doorsteps of many diverse communities, so are the perfect place for us all to learn how we can contribute to helping to protect them — Dave Harvey, Executive Director, Park People

Through Public Outreach and Engagement, the Greenbelt Foundation deepens public understanding of the Greenbelt, as well as how it contributes to a prosperous and sustainable future. The Greenbelt Foundation has continued to execute a robust public engagement program that inspires Ontarians to learn more, get involved in helping to steward the Greenbelt, and fully enjoy all the recreation, culture, and tourism opportunities it offers.

2020–2021 Achievements


  • 35 million readers reached
  • 900+ Greenbelt mentions
  • 100+ earned media stories
  • Coverage in Toronto Star, National Observer, and Hill Times
  • 500+ times Two TV PSAs aired


  • 20K+ mentions
  • 1.4 million impressions
  • 2K new followers
  • 65K engagements
  • 36,000 Readers of new blog series reached

Shared Path’s Municipal-Indigenous Education Toolkit

In March 2021, the Greenbelt Foundation renewed its funding to the Shared Path Consultation Initiative to support increased communications between Indigenous Communities and Greenbelt-area municipalities around land-use planning.

An interactive map is being developed throughout 2021 that will enable First Nations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe to identify their territories and borders, and support participation in local planning decisions.

First Nations are often inundated with hundreds of unnecessary consultation notices, burdening them with the task of sorting through all of the paperwork to determine relevance. Similarly, municipalities also struggle to determine how and with whom to engage in discussions about land-use planning matters.

This tool will support more effective engagement and streamline information for both First Nations and municipal staff. Shared Path anticipates that this will lead to a new best practice standard.

quote mark Many people within our network have been asking for this type of tool for years. When planners learn the importance of building relationships with Indigenous Communities, their first question is often, ‘How do I find out which communities I should be connecting with and how to contact them?’ Now we will be able to direct them to the Shared Land Map as a starting point. — Morgan Peters, Executive Director, Shared Path Consultation Initiative

2020 Friend of the Greenbelt Award

In November of 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation held its annual Friend of the Greenbelt Award as an online campaign and recognized eight important recipients who have championed the Greenbelt and helped build its legacy over its first 15 years.

Engagement spotlight:

  • Over 24K video views
  • Close to 3000 engagements

In 2020, awards were given out in four categories:

  1. Community Engagement

    caryln king

    Carolyn King, a recipient of the Order of Canada, was given the Community Engagement award for her ongoing work building relationships between First Nations and Ontario communities, especially with her Moccasin Identifier project, which uses installations across the landscape, as well as a school curriculum toolkit, to help Ontarians understand the historic and current presence of Indigenous Communities in the Greenbelt.

  2. Farming and Agriculture

    ontario federation of agriculture logo

    The Farming and Agriculture award was given to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) in recognition for their ongoing contribution to protecting and innovating farmland across Ontario, including in the Greenbelt—one of Canada’s most important food-producing regions. They represent farmers and producers and help ensure the success of the Greenbelt’s agri-food sector.

  3. Municipal Leadership

    municipla leadership

    Founding Municipal Leaders for the Greenbelt—former Toronto City Councillor, Glen De Baeremaeker; former Markham City Councillor, Erin Shapero; Oakville and Halton Region Councillor, Allan Elgar; and retired Mayor of Ajax, Steve Parish—have collectively been recognized with the Municipal Leadership award. Each recipient in this category provided important early leadership that resulted in the creation of the Greenbelt and continued for many years to engage other municipal leaders in the work to protect and enhance the Greenbelt within their communities.

  4. Restoration and Enhancement of both the Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment

    john russel powell

    The late John Russell Powell was recognized with the Restoration and Enhancement of the Oak Ridges Moraine award after a lifetime of dedication to conservation in Ontario, especially his work protecting and stewarding the Oak Ridges Moraine—an area of the Greenbelt with unique geological and ecological significance.

    philip gosling

    Philip Gosling, an avid naturalist, founder of the Gosling Foundation, and a recipient of the Order of Canada, was recognized with the Restoration and Enhancement of the Niagara Escarpment award, having been one of the founders of the Escarpment’s Bruce Trail Conservancy and a champion of ecological research in Ontario. The Niagara Escarpment is another geologically and ecologically significant part of the Greenbelt.

quote mark Since 2005, the Greenbelt has fostered complete, vibrant communities, a strong agricultural sector, and provided much needed greenspace in Canada’s otherwise most developed region. The Friend of the Greenbelt Award is an opportunity to acknowledge the collaboration, past and present, that has made the Greenbelt such an important part of Ontario today. — David McKeown, Chair of the Greenbelt Foundation’s Board of Directors

Earth Rangers—5 Missions

Engaging Kids and Families in Protecting the Greenbelt is a youth-focused program that ran 2020–2021 as a way of engaging Earth Rangers members and families in learning about the Province of Ontario’s first-ever Provincial Day of Action on Litter, as well as about Ontario’s Greenbelt.

To complete the missions, participants had to undertake challenges and activities, and submit photos and worksheets.

The most successful component of the project was the Greenbelt Missions, which exceeded targets and saw very strong engagement from Earth Rangers’ members across Ontario. Each of the six missions highlighted the Ontario Greenbelt and its importance to the environment, wildlife, and people, with content developed in collaboration with the Greenbelt Foundation.

  • Over 5,500 completions of Greenbelt Missions, exceeding targets.
  • 11 blog articles further exploring the mission topics and the Ontario Greenbelt, which garnered a total of 8,229 pageviews and 826 comments.
  • 13 e-blasts that went out to Earth Rangers’ members.
  • Over 70 social media posts shared by Earth Rangers and the Foundation, resulting in 12,822 impressions and 5,898 engagements.
  • 16.3 per cent increase in Earth Rangers’ membership.
quote mark Earth Rangers has thousands of young members living in and around the Ontario Greenbelt. It was inspiring to witness their excitement and pride for doing their part to support and protect it through activities like picking up litter, building wildlife habitats, and buying local produce. This program reinforced how critical the Greenbelt is to the sustainability of our province by highlighting the many facets of its role—from biodiversity protection, to climate resilience, to food security—and gave kids and families a sense of commitment and ownership over its future — Tovah Barocas, President, Earth Rangers

Growing the Greenbelt

In February 2021, the Government of Ontario announced its commitment to grow the Greenbelt with a focus on adding critical water systems, including the Paris-Galt Moraine and more of the region's urban river valleys. The Greenbelt Foundation welcomed this important step forward.

The benefits of growing the Greenbelt include protecting the natural water system and surrounding terrestrial features that support clean and sufficient water supply.

Together with government, conservation authorities, and our partners in the public and private sectors, the Greenbelt Foundation has an important role to play in engaging communities and convening stakeholders to support a strategic and thoughtful expansion of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

To support this initiative, the Greenbelt Foundation opened a special “Growing the Greenbelt” grant stream that enables resource-constrained civil society groups, Indigenous Communities, the agri-food and agriculture sector, and other stakeholders to fully engage in provincial consultations and contribute to the development of future Greenbelt policy.

Seven grants were awarded to organizations ranging from the National Farmers Union to Smart Prosperity Institute. Grantees worked within their communities to promote discourse and engagement about the Government of Ontario’s public consultation process.

quote mark By announcing its intention to expand the Greenbelt’s protection of critical water systems in Ontario, the Province has indicated an important path forward for extending and enhancing the unique benefits of the Greenbelt. We welcome this discussion and look forward to finding ways to build on the Greenbelt’s history of success — Edward McDonnell, CEO, Greenbelt Foundation

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. We would also like to thank Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Consecon Foundation for helping us to drive forward the protection of more near-urban natural spaces.

ontario logo
environment and climate change canada natural resources canada metcalf ivey foundation rbc foundation consecon city of toronto hodgson family foundation j.p. bickel foundation the charles norcliffe baker and thelma scott baker foundation peterborough hunter the george kostiuk foundation the willowool foundation the klein-panneton foundation the charles frederik fell foundation tweed neptis wc kitchen family foundation mclean smits foundation


Research Partners


In 2020–2021, the Greenbelt Foundation invested in a range of key partnerships, educational initiatives, research and policy work, and community programs.

Year ended March 31, 2021 / 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 greenbelt.ca/accountability

Thank you!

The Greenbelt Foundation is made up of a vibrant team of program leaders, research and policy experts, development and communications advisors, 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 addressing 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