2022 Year in Review: A permanent Greenbelt and a prosperous Ontario
December 21, 2022
The past year saw some incredible milestones and accomplishments at the Greenbelt Foundation, along with some of the biggest challenges we’ve faced to date. We continue to be inspired by the work of our partners and grantees and our collective ability to strengthen and realize the full potential of the Greenbelt.
It has been another very significant year. I would like to thank all our stakeholders, partners and supporters for their work and their vision in contributing to a healthy and prosperous Greenbelt."
This year also saw the most significant changes to the Greenbelt boundaries since its inception in 2005. As a result, we stand today, stronger than ever in our resolve to continue the important work of protecting and preserving our natural environment and farmland.
The Greenbelt is not just land. It is rivers and forests, farmlands and trails that provide millions of Ontarians with clean air and water, a sustainable local food source, and recreational opportunities that directly benefit our health and well-being. With the support of the Government of Ontario and many other donors, the work done by the Greenbelt Foundation and community stakeholders over the last two decades shows that Greenbelt lands are invaluable to families, businesses and communities in the region. The Greenbelt sustains life in Ontario, and it is what our growing province needs now more than ever as we face mounting pressures of farmland and biodiversity loss, increased need for local food and strong, climate resilient communities.
This spring, following recommendations by the Southern Ontario Nature Coalition (SONC) to protect biodiversity where it is most at risk and promote near-urban nature for climate resilient communities, the Foundation supported three urgent projects that preserve and enhance nature in Canada’s most developed areas.
Along with the critical natural systems it protects, the Greenbelt is home to more than 4,000 operating farms within its 750,000 acres of prime agricultural land, making up 40 per cent of Greenbelt lands. It also includes specialty crop regions: the Holland Marsh and Niagara Tender Fruit and Grape Area. Realizing the need to help accelerate soil health efforts by farmers, the Foundation released a research report making the business case for soil health. We also celebrated the success of the Ontario Tender Fruit Tree and Vine Program and recommitted our support for long-term crop diversification and expansion. This fall, we highlighted agricultural champions with our second annual Women in Agriculture video series.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity of a robust local food system and lessening reliance on global supply chains. But according to the latest Census of Agriculture, Ontario is losing nearly 320 acres of farmland every day. This trend is worrying, and it is unsustainable. This sentiment was expressed eloquently by the executive director of the Ontario Farmland Trust in a blog featured on our website: The future of Ontario’s farmland.
We continued to invest in people and projects that further the goals of engaging all communities in the Greenbelt. For example, we were pleased to support a program by Green Thumbs Growing Kids that helps Black and Indigenous youth form a meaningful connection to nature in the Greenbelt. I would also encourage you to read some of the other articles featured in Stories from the Greenbelt this year, including a personal account of hiking the full length of the Bruce Trail and exploring near-urban nature in Rouge National Urban Park. Finally, we continue to seek to highlight Indigenous connections and traditional histories in the Greenbelt region through ongoing collaboration with the Moccasin Identifier Project.
The Foundation also launched two research reports supported by a collection of stakeholders and partner organizations. One was launched this past summer – a Global Greenbelts report, comparing Ontario’s Greenbelt with similar protected areas around the world. The research found that our Greenbelt is one of the largest and better managed globally, thanks to strong public support and a commitment by provincial and local governments. The international case studies showed that many of the challenges we are facing at home are not unique to Ontario but also demonstrates that encroaching on protected lands is never a viable solution.
The Greenbelt is an important source of recreational space for residents and visitors in Ontario. This past year, we continued to enhance access and promote awareness of all the Greenbelt has to offer. Our report titled Improving Access to Large Parks in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe: Policy, Planning, and Funding Strategies suggests strategic solutions to ensuring that in a growing province everyone has access to natural spaces. We have also supported innovative new recreational and outdoor experiences including further work to create a Niagara Peninsula Geopark.
We have had a longstanding relationship with Waterfront Regeneration Trust, resulting in our Greenbelt Cycle Route and connectors, and this past year, we further enhanced access to cycling routes in the Greenbelt, connecting more people to Ontario’s cycle tourism and local businesses.
In recent weeks, we have seen an outpouring of support from Ontarians from all walks of life who see the Greenbelt as a source of pride. The Greenbelt offers immense possibility for sustainable growth, climate change mitigation, and persevering our natural areas and systems for present and future generations.
It has been another very significant year. I would like to thank all our stakeholders, partners and supporters for their work and their vision in contributing to a healthy and prosperous Greenbelt.
As we look forward to 2023 and the exciting work ahead, we are reminded of all the ways in which the Greenbelt provides for us. The strength of the Greenbelt can be directly tied to the strength of Ontario as a place to live, work and invest, and its permanence is key. We will continue to work with our partners, including the Government of Ontario, to ensure that this vital resource continues to sustain us for generations to come.
Edward McDonnell is the CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation.
To read other stories from the Greenbelt, click here.