Stories from the Greenbelt: Your Greenbelt: A Source of Pride

Mar 24, 2021   •   , News

Your Greenbelt: A Source of Pride

 March 23rd, 2021

When I joined the Greenbelt Foundation as the Director of Strategic Communications in 2020, I thought of the saying — Birds sing not because they have the answers, but because they have songs. Did I have all the answers for this new venture? I was drawn to the work of the Foundation — enhancing two million acres of land that provides clean air, fresh water, and local food to Ontarians; and protecting forests, river valleys and wetlands, which are critical to the health and well-being of all life. With that clear sense of purpose, I saw the opportunity in telling stories about why the Greenbelt is a source of pride for many.

Support and appreciation of the Greenbelt and its benefits did not vary widely - regardless of where respondents lived, their age, income, political affiliation, or whether they were newcomer to Canada or not.

Greenbelt and its Benefits

Early in my time at the Foundation, I led a project that examined the relationship between Ontarians and Greenbelt. Conducted by Innovative Research Group, the 2020 biennial survey looked at the level of awareness of the Greenbelt and its benefits among residents of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region. It was heartening to learn that more than nine out of 10 respondents support the Greenbelt, while two-thirds of those polled have heard of the Greenbelt, making it the best-known program in the province that protects critical farmlands, biodiversity, and natural landscapes.


Protecting natural water systems, preserving agricultural lands and green spaces, and reducing the impact of climate change emerged as the most important benefits of the Greenbelt according to eight out of 10 respondents.  Why is water on top of the list? In the Greenbelt and throughout the Oak Ridges Moraine and Niagara Escarpment — key natural features of the Greenbelt — you will find critical headwaters to more than 30 rivers that feed into Lake Ontario, which is a source of freshwater that more than seven million Ontarians rely on.

From a tourism perspective, local and non-local visitors continue to enjoy a vast array of recreational activities in the Greenbelt, with the most popular being hiking and walking, visiting family and friends, shopping in towns and villages, and visiting farmer’s markets. Notably, 69 percent of respondents say they are likely to visit the  Greenbelt in the next 12 months. With 475 km of cycling routes and 10,000 km of walking and hiking trails, the Greenbelt has room for everyone. Growing the number of visitors to the Greenbelt and increasing their opportunities to explore the outdoors, connect with local businesses, and enjoy some of Ontario’s best food and drink is imperative.

Support and appreciation of the Greenbelt and its benefits did not vary widely - regardless of where respondents lived, their age, income, political affiliation, or whether they were newcomer to Canada or not.

Impact of COVID-19

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 was a top-of-mind issue for a third of respondents. Some residents have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to spend more time in nature, while others have cut back and are staying home. When the pandemic first struck, it was unclear to many what impact it would have on farmers, the supply chain, and Ontario’s local food economy. We saw many farmers and markets go digital at a rapid pace, and six out of 10 residents surveyed said the outbreak has made access to local food more important for them.  By choosing to buy local, Ontarians are supporting local farmers, producers, and retailers, all while creating much needed jobs — it is a win-win situation.

An Asset

Contributing $9.6 billion in economic activity every year while supporting 177,700 local full-time or full-time equivalent jobs, the Greenbelt is an asset for Ontario. A source of pride. An Ontarian identity. A national treasure. A legacy.

It’s no wonder that 86 per cent of the respondents agreed that the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions of our generation to the future of Ontario!

Petronilla Ndebele is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Greenbelt Foundation.

In 2020, the Greenbelt Foundation worked with Innovation Research Group to conduct an online survey which received 2,623 valid survey responses among the general population, 18 years or older (a representative sample). The sample size included Toronto, Peel, North West, Niagara-Hamilton, and East regions. Learn more.

"INNOVATIVE’s polling research provides the Greenbelt Foundation with a better understanding of the motivations, barriers, and overall persona of their supporters, visitors and potential visitors to the Greenbelt. Our research helps enable the Foundation to communicate the importance and benefits of the Greenbelt more effectively, and continue their vital work across much of Ontario. With these insights, we hope to enable the Foundation with the tools it needs to encourage people to further engage with the Greenbelt and all it has to offer.

Working with the Greenbelt Foundation was a great experience! Being able to provide insights which will help preserve and develop an important piece of our natural environment, is of course very rewarding."

- Jason Lockhart, Vice President, Innovative Research Group Inc.