2023 Year in Review: A Growing and Prosperous Greenbelt
December 20, 2023
Reflecting on a truly unprecedented year at the Greenbelt Foundation, I am struck by the milestones and accomplishments that our team achieved working with our partners and grantees. We continue to be inspired by their work and our collective ability to strengthen and realize the full potential of the Greenbelt.
Reflecting on a truly unprecedented year at the Greenbelt Foundation, I am struck by the milestones and accomplishments that our team achieved working with our partners and grantees."
The incredible outpouring of support for the Greenbelt and the Foundation’s work over the past twelve months has been a testament to the strength of our community and a reminder of the place of importance that the Greenbelt holds in the lives of every Ontarian. We thank each community member, partner, advocate and citizen who gave voice to the necessity of permanently protecting these lands.
Last year brought the most significant changes to the Greenbelt boundaries since its inception, and 2023 saw the reversal of those changes. The Foundation applauds the Government of Ontario’s decision to reverse the removal of land from Ontario’s Greenbelt, signaling a return to permanent protection of its critical water, natural heritage and agricultural systems. Our Ontario Greenbelt contains the productive farmlands that feed us, the landscapes that clean our water, the trees that filter our air, and supports the health and economies of many communities big and small in the most densely populated area of the country.
As Ontario grows more quickly than ever before, the natural and agricultural systems within the Greenbelt continue to become ever more critical. Positive, sustainable growth will be enabled by everything the Greenbelt provides. This past year, the Foundation focused on projects that will support Ontario’s growing communities. From managing natural assets, to improving the quality of our soil to replenishing and restoring nature, we continued to work to strengthen the Greenbelt.
With the support of the Province of Ontario, we achieved a major milestone in our 1 million Trees program by planting 500,000 trees in the Greenbelt. Throughout this two-year program, we worked with leading organizations such as Forests Ontario, Conservation Ontario, individual conservation authorities, local stewardship groups, and others to expand and accelerate tree planting across the Greenbelt. This is a critical activity to advance climate and biodiversity goals.
In addition to improving our green spaces and reducing climate risks we also focused on supporting agriculture in the Greenbelt by launching our 4-year Soil Health Testing Program. This program enables farmers to measure and evaluate the impact of different beneficial management practices (BMPs) on soil health. In follow-up to last year's Business Case for Soil Health report launch, we released 7 Soil Health Fact Sheets with Soils at Guelph, and we also highlighted agricultural champions with our third annual Women in Agriculture video series.
The Foundation launched a research report supported by a collection of stakeholders and partner organizations, which revealed the power of green spaces in mitigating the effects of climate change. The research used two residential neighbourhoods in York Region and examined the health impacts of heat exposure under two scenarios: expected heat exposure in a typical summer and expected heat exposure during an extreme heat event. The report highlighted how tree cover can reduce extreme temperatures, resulting in lower energy consumption and improved health outcomes.
The Greenbelt is an important source of recreational space for residents and visitors in Ontario. This past year, we continued to work with partners to enhance access and promote awareness of all the Greenbelt has to offer. Our longstanding relationship with Waterfront Regeneration Trust, for example, has resulted in our Greenbelt Cycle Route and connector routes, as well as our active participation in the annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, as featured in our September Stories from the Greenbelt.
We continued to invest in people and projects that further the goals of engaging all communities in the Greenbelt, including youth. We were pleased to continue our support of Ecoschools to work with schools in communities in and around the Ontario Greenbelt — on learning about this biodiverse area, exploring the biodiversity, and conducting planting events in their own schoolyards. We are excited to continue work in this area into 2024.
In 2023, we saw the most focused outpouring of support from Ontarians in all walks of life who see the Greenbelt as a source of pride. The Greenbelt offers immense resources 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 towards 2024, we are reminded of all the great work that goes on in communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe and beyond to maintain the strength of the Greenbelt, now and in perpetuity.