Soon to be a National Park, the Rouge River Valley in northeastern Toronto is a spectacular treasure. Covering hundreds of green acres, the Rouge Park is the largest urban park in North America. It is also a valuable part of Ontario’s Greenbelt.
I recently had the chance to spend the day hiking in the Park and aside from its stunning beauty, I just couldn't believe that I was about a 30 minute car ride away from downtown Toronto. There was no noise, no honking horns, no rushing taxis or cyclists.
For Family Day, I took my two youngest daughters to a cooking class held at the terrific Petit Chefs Academy. This particular event was put on by Farmers Feed Cities, a campaign organized by a coalition of farm organizations commited to ensuring a thriving and sustainable farm industry in Ontario.
While a bag of stones or gravel may look fairly benign, the process of getting it can be anything but. Aggregate is mined from the earth, either dug out of pits or blasted out of quarries. This process can have many environmental impacts. Creating pits or quarries for the extraction of stone, sand, gravel and shale removes virtually all natural vegetation, top soil, and subsoil. It leads to the loss of existing animal and plant species and by removing their habitats. Adjacent ecosystems are also affected by noise, dust, pollution and water issues.
Last month, the Greenbelt Foundation released its annual report (seehttp://www.greenbelt.ca/webfm_send/887.) We are certainly proud to have accomplished so much in a year, and while the Report is full of successful Greenbelt stories, one aspect of the Foundation perhaps needs more elaboration. That’s our fiscal accountability and success. Talking about finances is a timely topic, as the one theme that has united voters across the southern Ontario region during this municipal election is greater fiscal accountability.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is working with terrific young talent at the Greenbelt Foundation. You see, about four years ago we started an “Intern Program” which seeks out the next generation of leaders in the field. Bringing them to the Foundation on a one year employment contract, we help build their talents and skills sets for that one year, and then set them free to apply what they have learned at the Foundation to other organizations.
Last week, my youngest daughter Sierra asked me if I could get her 30 copies of the Greenbelt Kids Activity books. The Greenbelt Foundationproduced this 33-page Kids Activity book as a means to reach out to the young ones to learn about Ontario’s Greenbelt through games, puzzles and drawings. We produced these books in partnership with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and they were a big hit at the Fair as well as many other places.
Camping has always been one of my favourite ways to spend my vacation. As a boy growing up in Germany, I went camping regularly throughout Europe, principally because it was the only affordable way to visit and stay at the place of interest. Over those years, I’ve come to appreciate camping for more than dealing with budget pressures.
We threw a party a few days ago. A celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Niagara Escarpment Plan – Canada’s first green plan. We shared fabulous food and wines from Greenbelt producers, and we heard from and saw past and future leaders of Niagara Escarpment protection.
Metro Morning on CBC Radio ran a promo this week on what’s the best bicycle route in the city. And while I didn’t get a chance to submit my suggestions, having it taken just this past May long weekend, my suggestion is the Humber Trail. Running north from Lake Ontario, the Humber Trail is an under-appreciated treasure in Toronto.
Recently, I was invited to speak at a conference panel looking at biodiversity in the city. The 150 delegates were keen on learning new ways of thinking about biodiversity issues in the urban environment, as well as looking ahead on how to build the relationship between humans and other species sharing the urban spaces.