Local Leadership Matters: Ontario Municipalities Taking Action to Strengthen the Greenbelt

From tree planting to local food processing, this report looks at a mix of initiatives and tools 30 municipalities are using to enhance Ontario’s Greenbelt.

May 11, 2015   •   Livable Communities, Research

Local Leadership Matters profiles a mix of initiatives and tools 30 municipalities are using to strengthen Ontario’s Greenbelt, including enhancing valuable natural heritage sites, supporting agriculture, increasing tourism, and strengthening local economies. The report also addresses misconceptions about what the Greenbelt Plan allows or doesn’t allow you to do, highlighting where restrictions are actually coming from municipalities, not the provincial Greenbelt Plan.

Results from the survey of municipalities also reveals several motivations behind municipal initiatives including capitalizing on economic and tourism opportunities, and responding to public expectations. Local Leadership Matters identifies several challenges being encountered by municipal staff through their work, and most of those identified in this report are related to implementation (e.g. funding). Throughout your reading, you will encounter several suggestions made by staff to improve or enhance these initiatives with a view towards the larger goal of a protected, viable, and diverse Greenbelt, including actions from the Ontario government, municipalities themselves, and the public.

There are misconceptions about what the Greenbelt Plan allows or doesn’t allow you to do. A lot of the restrictions actually come from the municipalities, not the province. Some take a Draconian approach, and others less so.

Examples of municipal projects include:

  • The County of Northumberland established a 15,000 square foot local food processing and training facility to help farmers diversify and expand their businesses.

  • The Town of Aurora calculated that the total economic value of its natural assets, such as woodlands and wetlands, are worth about $7.4 million annually.

  • The Region of Peel offers funding of up to 50 per cent to assist conservation partners in securing additional natural areas for environmental and recreational purposes—with nearly 900 acres purchased since 2005.

  • The Municipality of Clarington launched the Trees for Rural Roads program to restore tree-lined rural roads by planting Maples throughout the community. Since 2012, the municipality and property owners have planted 2,300 trees.

  • An Explore the Bruce Adventure Passport, created by Bruce County, involves an annual scavenger hunt that encourages residents and cottagers to visit the scenic natural features and other tourist attractions across the County. To date, nearly 70,000 people have participated in exploring the Bruce.

  • How the Town of Lincoln is becoming a Centre of Excellence for Agriculture.

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