Highlights of An Eventful Year
December 16th, 2021
My year at the Greenbelt Foundation has been an eventful one, to say the least. One could define it as a year of business as unusual given the global pandemic and ongoing climate crisis from extreme heat waves to floods. What kept me going was the number of innovative projects and excellent collaborations with Foundation team members and partners.
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 glistening winter months, blooms of spring, warmth of summer, and the unique but familiar colours of fall, 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. And as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, the Greenbelt Foundation continued to steward Ontario’s Greenbelt – an asset to all – which includes some of the province’s most important natural areas, like the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment, and 21 urban river valleys.
A milestone of 2021 was the launch of the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition’s Near-Urban Nature Network Vision for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This ground-breaking project came at a time when protecting natural areas and biodiversity has never been more important. The Coalition released A Solution to Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss: The Final Report which provides key recommendations to help all levels of government to protect near-urban nature across the country.
Highlights of What Happened During the Year
In February of 2021, the Government of Ontario announced its commitment to expand the quality and quantity of Ontario’s Greenbelt. Protecting and growing the Greenbelt is good news for Ontarians, who are especially proud of their Greenbelt.
In the same month, the Greenbelt Foundation signed another three-year agreement with the Government of Ontario. With $12 million in renewed funding, the Foundation is building on previous successes through four key program areas: Grant Funding; Monitoring and Applied Research; Engagement and Project Facilitation; and Public Outreach and Connecting with the Greenbelt.
This year, the Grant Funding Program provided funding to about 48 new projects through three grant streams: Growing the Greenbelt to support civil society groups’ participation in the Government of Ontario’s public consultation process; Prosperous Greenbelt to increase COVID-19-safe visits to the Greenbelt, while enhancing local tourism partnerships and visitor experiences; and Resilient Greenbelt to increase natural cover and improvements to the region’s green infrastructure.
Among these grants is $70,000 in funding for EcoSchools Canada’s new program, “Taking Action in the Greenbelt”, a program which will give students hands-on experience planting native trees and shrubs; and $285,000 in renewed support and funding for the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers to allow the replanting of approximately 75,000 new trees and 10,000 new vines across the Niagara region.
As for the Monitoring and Applied Research Program, 13 research reports were released to improve knowledge and understanding of the Greenbelt, as well as its agriculture and natural heritage systems. Among these Reports were:
- The Power of Soil – An Agenda for Change to Benefit Farmers and Climate Resilience, which illustrates how healthy soils help the country’s farmers adapt to climate change and play an even larger role in addressing the climate crisis.
- The Greenbelt Value of Nature Survey for Recreation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which examines how people connected with nature and the impacts of COVID-19 on nature-based activities between July 2020 and August 2021.
Under the Engagement and Project Facilitation Program, the Foundation continued to work with groups and organizations to protect and enhance Ontario’s Greenbelt and improve understanding of its economic, environmental, and social benefits. The Foundation collaborated with the Ontario Soil Network for the development of a new farmer engagement mobile app, which allows farmers to share their experience with soil health management practices. The Foundation is also working with Green Infrastructure Ontario to identify models for a more regional approach to planning for parks and enhancing access to nature.
For the Public Outreach and Connecting with the Greenbelt Program, we continued to deepen public understanding of the Greenbelt through storytelling. A robust public engagement program was implemented to inspire Ontarians to learn more, get involved in helping to steward the Greenbelt, and fully enjoy all the recreation, culture, and tourism opportunities it offers. As a result, the Foundation has over 37,000 followers across social media channels, and 50,600 Friends of the Greenbelt. Key milestones for the team included the launch of Rivers for Resilience, an award-winning campaign that outlined the critical role of urban river valleys; Possibility Grows Here, a comprehensive digital engagement campaign that brought in 383 new e-signups, and over 290 pledges to become a “Friend” of the Greenbelt over a period of three months; and Women in Agriculture, a campaign profiling female-identifying farmers and leaders in the industry.
In the coming year, we will continue to increase natural cover, enhance natural systems, build climate resilience, provide opportunities for Ontarians to experience nature, and support Ontario’s farmers, agri-food industry, and local businesses.
It takes a village to protect Ontario’s Greenbelt. What we have achieved to date could not have been possible without the support and leadership of our partners, our board and advisory committee members, the incredible community-at-large, and the team at the Greenbelt Foundation. We thank you for your ongoing and critical support of Ontario’s Greenbelt.
Petronilla Ndebele is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Greenbelt Foundation.