Published October 19, 2016, in the Barrie Examiner
"SPRINGWATER TWP. – In Simcoe County, we see water everywhere and believe we have an abundance of the precious resource.
Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition would like to burst that bubble with a loud pop.
“The idea that our water is plentiful and secure is a myth,” Prophet told a group of about 30 people gathered at the Midhurst United Church Wednesday morning.
A panel of half-a-dozen interested parties, including the founder of Ontario Farmland Preservation, Bernard Pope, Tottenham mother Nancy McBride, who’s concerned about the quality of her tap water, Becky Big Canoe on the band council of the Chippewas of Georgina Island and environmentalist Bob Bowles spoke at the symposium.
With a pre-recorded video from former Toronto mayor David Crombie, the group is one of 30 across Ontario calling on the province to protect the greenbelt, which includes the Oak Ridges Moraine in the Greater Toronto Area, and add Simcoe County to those protected lands.
The idea is to create a bluebell of protected lands around the existing greenbelt that would protect the source of drinking water for 1.25 million residents, as well as supporting agriculture economies."
Read the rest, here.
Published in the Fall/Winter edition of The Tiny Cottager
"We hope that the province gives particular attention to Recommendation 71 of the Crombie Report, which highlights the potential to grow the Greenbelt beyond its existing boundary based on areas of ecological and hydrological significance. The Report from a panel led by former Toronto mayor David Crombie was received by the Ontario government in December 2015. It made 87 recommendations, including expansion of the Greenbelt to protect more lands from development and tighten controls on settlement expansions.
Simcoe County would make a strong candidate to be a part of Greenbelt expansion, based on the panel’s key considerations:
- Protection of areas that sequester and store carbon or protect and improve resilience to climate change: The county has vast wetland complexes of local, provincial and international significance such as Minesing Wetlands, Wye Marsh and Tiny Marsh, which are significant carbon sinks. Natural coverage in sub-watershed is high compared to every other region in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This network of forests and ground cover provides a front line defence against climate change.
- Rural Source Water Protection Priorities: The Oro Moraine, which directly supplies drinking water to over 20,000 people, is also the source of numerous watercourses feeding both Lake Simcoe and Severn Sound. The Nottawasaga watershed provides water for daily use for many rural Simcoe communities and irrigation for many agricultural operations. All residents of Tiny Township depend on groundwater for daily use, making it imperative that recharge areas and aquifers are adequately protected through land use policies.
- Protection of adjoining areas of critical hydrological significance, such as important surface water areas, key headwaters, moraines, groundwater recharge areas, highly vulnerable aquifers etc.: A large portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed that is currently outside of the Greenbelt is considered medium-to-high vulnerability for groundwater supply and contains many highly vulnerable aquifers. The Nottawasaga Valley watershed contains many highly vulnerable aquifers especially around the Minesing Wetlands and areas to the north and west of it (Source: South Georgian Bay Source Water Protection Plan). It must not be forgotten that a main vision of the Greenbelt was to protect against the loss and fragmentation of the agricultural land base and support agriculture as the predominant land use. Tiny Township is rich in productive farmland. Based on the Crombie panel’s recommendations, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is potentially looking at expanding the Greenbelt to protect water features that are “under pressure from urban growth”."
Read the rest, here.
Published April 21, 2016, in the Barrie Advance and on Simcoe.com
"Your article was staggering. What was more jaw-dropping is what has been sacrificed to support Barrie’s previous love of sprawl – 154 square-kilometres (26,000 football fields) of natural and semi-natural space, mostly forest.
Forests and natural spaces aren’t just wasted space. They are irreplaceable systems that filter our water and air as well as support our tourism and recreation industry. In fact, those green spaces have been linked to an increase in residents’ mental health and they make our communities more liveable and happy.
Unfortunate as it is that Barrie lost so much to sprawl, there is hope the city will act more responsibly to preserve its natural environment going forward.
With Simcoe County slated to grow to 667,000 people by 2031, there is an increased demand to grow our communities. At the same time, the county needs to preserve its beaches, forests, farmland and rivers for our health and economy. I believe the Ontario Greenbelt can help achieve that balance.
Tell your local council, MPP and the premier that we want the Greenbelt to grow in Simcoe County.
Margaret Prophet - Co-Chair, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition"
Published February 11, 2016, in the Barrie Advance
"News of increasing food prices in Canada have helped to temper enthusiasm for 2016. The University of Guelph’s Food Institute estimates the average Canadian household spent an $325 more in 2015. This year, you should expect an additional annual increase of about $345—about the price of 70 bags of milk.
As mentioned in your story, we can avoid the impact of some of these price spikes by buying more locally grown and produced food. However, the continuing pressure to Simcoe’s productive farmland from urban sprawl risks threatening our local food supply.
In Midhurst, almost 2,000 acres of some of the best farmland is at risk of being paved over for 10,000 homes. Other small rural communities such as Everett also risk having their farmland destroyed for needless sprawl.
A recent report by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and Environmental Defence found three-quarters of the best farmland in the Greater Golden Horseshoe — which includes Simcoe — is at risk of being swallowed up by unsustainable growth. This report, authored by some of the brightest planners, agricultural experts and environmentalists, highlights our need to take action now before it is too late.
This is why it makes perfect sense that Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s Minister responsible for the Greenbelt Plan, wants to grow the Greenbelt to provide similar protections and long-term certainty for our food security and rural communities.
And he’s not alone.
According to recent Environics polling results, about 96 per cent of respondents in rural communities believe the Greenbelt should be expanded to protect our farmland, water supply, and our natural heritage sites.
With the province’s Greenbelt Plan review underway, let’s take this opportunity to permanently protect the farmland that feeds our communities, the forests that keep our air fresh, and the water systems that filter our drinking water. Let Premier Wynne know that we need to grow the Greenbelt into Simcoe County.
Jim Partridge, president, Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture
Margaret Prophet, co-chairperson, Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition"
Published February 1, 2016, in the Barrie Examiner
"The clock is ticking on the future of Simcoe County's environment.
Bluebelt/Greenbelt: Simcoe's Watershed Moment — a meeting to raise public awareness about expanding the Greenbelt into Simcoe County — was held in Barrie on Saturday.
Organized by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, the meeting included 23 organizations looking to protect water sources and natural heritage systems in the area.
Expanding the greenbelt policy into the county would be a way to help do that, according coalition spokeswoman Margaret Prophet, who added that it will limit costly sprawl and ensure future growth is concentrated where infrastructure and jobs already exist while preserving farms, streams, wetlands and forests.
The Ontario Greenbelt currently extends across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, but with Simcoe County slated to grow to 667,000 by 2031, coalition members want to ensure areas of the county are afforded the same protection.
"We believe that greenbelt policy is a healthy balance of allowing our communities to grow and evolve while protecting the areas that are important to people of Simcoe County, including our beaches, lakes, streams and drinking water supply," she said, adding local politicians also took part in Saturday's event, which attracted more than 150 people.
"To us, (the turnout) showed the potential for this issue to rise above being partisan and instead, bring people together from all political stripes to help build a positive vision for Simcoe County as it continues to grow, like the non-partisan leadership that was shown in drafting the Lake Simcoe Protection Act."
Read the rest, here.
Published January 29, 2016, in the Barrie Advance
"Imagine you spread anti-bacterial liquid all over your hands. Later that day, you wash your hands with soap and water.
Those germ-fighting chemicals are now running down the drain with Barrie’s water supply headed to the sewage treatment plant.
Such chemicals can negatively affect water ecology, warns Connie Spek, a local water expert. “We almost take it for granted. It’s easy to ignore things that have always been there,” she said.
The former member of the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority is one of four speakers at a free, public event Jan. 30. Experts will discuss issues surrounding regional water, farmland and natural heritage systems.
Expanding Ontario’s Greenbelt in Simcoe County is also on the agenda.
The event is organized by AWARE Simcoe and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
Spek said people put chemicals down the drain without realizing it, such as hormones from medication that show up in urine and Nano silver from antibacterial yarn, used in odour-free socks.
“We’re a modern society (but) we kind of let things slide,” she said. “The most startling thing to happen in our province was Walkerton. I turn on the tap – that’s municipal water – and it’s safe. I make that assumption.”
Although the water crisis in Walkerton in 2000 sparked increased regulations and source-water protection, Spek said there is always more people can do."
Read the rest, here.
Published November 22, 2016, in the Barrie Advance
"When you drink tap water, take a shower and swim in a local lake, you want that water to be clean and safe.
This is why the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is asking the province to expand Ontario’s Greenbelt in our area.
“People got behind the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This is just the next logical step,” said coalition co-chairperson Margaret Prophet.
Ontario’s Greenbelt is a 1.8-million-acre parcel of protected farmland, wetland and forest stretching from the Greater Toronto Area north to Tobermory. In Simcoe County, the Greenbelt covers Holland Marsh crop areas in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil as well as portions of Adjala–Tosorontio and New Tecumseth.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson Conrad Spezowka said the province is committed to growing the Greenbelt. In the spring, the ministry completed a series of public consultations to review four provincial growth plans and to consider Greenbelt expansion.
“Municipal interest to date has been on adding urban river valleys within existing urban areas. This builds on the Greenbelt Plan amendment, which recognizes urban river valleys as important connections to the Great Lakes and will help municipalities in identifying possible areas for Greenbelt expansion,” Spezowka said.
Proposed amendments will come forward in the winter of 2016, he added.
More than 100 community groups, including the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and Ontario Greenbelt Alliance, have asked the province to nearly double the size of the Greenbelt to add 1.5 million acres of land containing vital water resources. In Simcoe County this includes almost 300,000 hectares of land covering the Lake Simcoe watershed, the Oro Moraine, the Nottawasaga River Watershed and the Minesing Wetlands, which supply and purify clean drinking water for most residents of the county, Prophet said.
“We’re hoping at least the vulnerable water areas of Simcoe County would be protected,” she added. “Only a portion of the Lake Simcoe watershed is protected.”'
Read the rest, here.