2021 Friend of the Greenbelt Award Recipients Announced
Award Focuses on Rapid Response and Innovation in the Face of COVID-19
Throughout the pandemic, Conservation Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities and Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network pivoted their operations in ways that continued to advance the Greenbelt’s economic, environmental, and social recovery."
These organizations are being recognized for innovative solutions to COVID-19 response and recovery. Throughout the pandemic, Conservation Ontario’s 36 conservation authorities and Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network pivoted their operations in ways that continued to advance the Greenbelt’s economic, environmental, and social recovery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic posed operational challenges for many of our partner organizations,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO of Greenbelt Foundation. “Our award recipients showed great resilience and ingenuity in order to overcome these challenges, ensuring that Greenbelt benefits such as fresh healthy food and access to green spaces and active recreation opportunities could continue to be accessed at a time when residents needed them the most.”
Conservation Ontario is accepting the award on behalf of the 36 conservation authorities it represents. On an annual basis, Ontario conservation authorities see about 8 million visitors a year, but during 2020 that number rose to 10 million. A surge in visitor traffic this large has never been seen before. Conservation authorities had to work very quickly to put new protocols in place to adapt to this increased demand, and simultaneously many of them developed new innovative programming such as reservation systems, a Forest Therapy Program, Storybook Walks, and a Talking Forest App.
“Conservation authorities know how important nature is for our physical and mental well-being,” said Kim Gavine, General Manager of Conservation Ontario. “They adapted quickly to pandemic conditions and made sure that visitors could safely enjoy their conservation areas.”
Recent Greenbelt Foundation research shows that trips to the Greenbelt have risen significantly since the onset of the pandemic. Approximately 3.7 million people travelled to a Greenbelt destination to engage in a nature-based activity between July 2020 and August 2021. Many of these visits were in areas managed by conservation authorities.
The Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network supports and connects markets, farmers, and shoppers around Ontario’s Greenbelt and aims to increase the success of farmers’ markets in the region. This network supported its members to go online in 2020, so that consumers could engage with their local farmers’ markets virtually, buy food from their favourite vendors, and have it delivered to safe locations. This resulted in $1.3 million in sales from May to December 2020 and supported 570 farmers and vendors.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, as we watched markets not being able to open, food was coming out of the ground and it had nowhere to go,” says Daniel Taylor, Co-Director of Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network. “We had to find a whole new way for farmers’ markets to operate and function, in the matter of a few weeks.”
Both Conservation Ontario and Greenbelt Farmers’ Market Network will join Greenbelt Foundation CEO Edward McDonnell for an online viewing party and ceremony on Monday, January 17, 2022, from 2:00-3:15pm EST. Following the ceremony, a series of videos about the recipients will be released online and on social media.
The Friend of the Greenbelt Award recognizes leaders from across the Greater Golden Horseshoe who champion, innovate, and ensure the ongoing success of Ontario’s Greenbelt.
About Greenbelt Foundation:
Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, solely dedicated to ensuring the 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.
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