The Greenbelt Value of Nature Survey for Recreation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a new report that examines Ontarians’ participation, awareness, and investments in nature-based activities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) from July 2020 to August 2021. The purpose of the study was to collect in-depth data from GGH residents about their recreational activities to build support for continued protection and investments in parks and natural areas. The research is designed to build on the findings from the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey to better understand the activities and expenditures of people living in the GGH during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results of the survey demonstrate the importance of nature for recreation and the significant contribution nature makes to the physical and mental health of Ontarians and the local economy."
The objective of the study was to examine:
- Overall importance of access to nature.
- Way in which people have connected to nature in the study period.
- Motivations for and barriers to seeking out nature-based activities.
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on amount of time engaged in different activities.
- Number of trips greater than 20km away from home to areas in Ontario’s Greenbelt.
- Locations of most common nature-based trips.
- Participation in volunteer nature conservation activities.
- Donation, maintenance, restoration and/or purchase of land for nature-based purposes.
The results of the survey demonstrate the importance of nature for recreation and the significant contribution nature makes to the physical and mental health of Ontarians and the local economy. It highlights the types and frequency of nature-based activities practiced by GGH residents during the study period and the reasons for doing so. It also looks at the economic impact of recreation activities within the GGH and examines the barriers to accessing these activities, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 85 per cent of adults living in the GGH participated in at least one of 22 nature-based activities during the study period.
The top activities, engaged in by more half of people were:
- relaxing in an outdoor setting to enjoy nature (71 per cent)
- walking or hiking in natural areas (69 per cent)
- gardening or landscaping with plants (56 per cent).
The survey also asked about the number of days in which people participated in each activity during the study period. People spent the most time:
- walking or hiking in natural areas (54 days, any distance)
- relaxing in outdoor settings to enjoy nature (47 days)
- gardening (35 days)
- birding (31 days)
- cycling (23 days).
GGH residents cite a range of reasons for seeking out nature-based activities, most of which relate to mental and physical well-being:
- to relax (65 per cent)
- to relieve stress (60 per cent)
- for exercise (60 per cent)
- to generally improve mental (58 per cent) and physical health (56 per cent).
- More than eight-in-ten GGH residents (84 per cent) indicate that it is important to them personally to live in an area with good access to nature. However, only 67 per cent rate the access where they live as “excellent” or “good”.
- In terms of barriers to seeking out nature-based activities, the COVID-19 pandemic was the top reason (50 per cent), followed by lack of time (30 per cent), crowds (30 per cent), distance from home (27 per cent), not knowing where to go (24 per cent), and cost/expense (23 per cent).
- GGH residents spent over $6.5 billion participating in nature-based activities during the study period.
- Half of GGH residents – approximately 3.7 million people – took a trip to a destination in and around the Greenbelt for the purpose of engaging in a nature-based activity during the study period.
- About one-in-six GGH residents (17 per cent) report making a donation or paying a membership fee to a nature or conservation organization during the study period.
Read the full report: