Greenbelt expansion holds some of the answers
By Mark Bisset
This article was previously published in the May, 2016 edition of The Villager, Washago Community Newspaper.
I was standing on Young Street near Vaughan recently feeling rotten.
There was nothing wrong with me physically. It was Young Street that I was reacting to. It feels as if Toronto has crept up that venerable old road without restraint, gobbling up some of Ontario's best farmland, rolling woodlands and even wetland.
Had I stood there a decade earlier, I would probably been looking at a family farmstead; maybe a forest.
The only thing that will restrain this juggernaut is Lake Simcoe itself. And even then, the development only skips to the west and continues up Highways 400 and 11 toward Washago, like a flash flood in slow motion.
I realize this feeling puts me in a certain subset of the population. And maybe on another day I would have had a different reaction ("Cool, a Starbucks.") But I was on my way to a meeting of the Ontario Land Trust Alliance, which exists to protect a little bit of our province from this urban onslaught.
Across the decades, Ontario has done a very poor job when it comes to good planning that recognizes the importance of natural heritage and agricultural land. There are many reasons for that, from divided jurisdictions, to the honest desire its citizens feel to have a home of their own, to the relentless pursuit of growth to generate jobs and tax revenue.
But I think the biggest reason is abundance.Read more
By Bob Bowles
Previously published by AWARE Simcoe.
The Ganaraska Trail makes its way across Simcoe County as it runs from Port Hope on Lake Ontario to Glen Huron where it meets the Bruce Trail with side trails to Midland and Wasaga Beach. The forests in Simcoe County make up some of the nicest places to hike along the trail. The trail runs through places like Scout Valley in Orillia and then over the Oro Moraine through several Simcoe County Forests then through the 1780 ha. Copeland Forest Resource Management Area, the largest tract of crown land left in Southern Ontario.
This second-growth forest on the Oro Moraine is used by Nordic skiers (13 km of expert, 10.9 km of intermediate and 1.5 km of beginner trails in this area), all track-set with signs prohibiting pedestrians and dogs. It is also used by hikers, hunters, horseback riders, bird watchers, naturalists, recreational walkers, dog walkers, snowshoeing enthusiasts, and in recent years many mountain bikers. Add to that list dirt bikers, four-wheelers and even hummer tours and you have high usage of the lattice network of trails through this beautiful forest.
This is also true for all the Simcoe County Forests where mountain bikers have constructed many trails through the forests that zigzag back and forth over rocks and between trees to give them more distance as they ride their bikes over the forest floor compacting the earth and tearing the beautiful mosses and lichens from the rocks that they use as obstacles and jumps in their high energy recreation that has high impact on the forest ecology. Many new bike trails in the Simcoe County Forests are marked by large blotches of red paint on the bark of nearby trees giving the forest a very unnatural appearance. Add to this the heavy impact of logging of the red pine plantations by the county and you have a forest that is taking on a whole new appearance.
These forests on the Oro Moraine need to be protected, not for the many users and stakeholders mentioned above but because like other moraines, that were formed 13,000 years ago with the melting of the Wisconsin Glacier, they consist of limestone and sand deposits over aquifers that are the source of our freshwater. The Copeland Forests on the south edge of the Oro Moraine form the headwaters of the Sturgeon River, Coldwater River and Willow Creek watersheds. I first became aware of the great importance of these aquifers at the base of the moraine with my work to protect Mill Creek and Scout Valley with its freshwater seeps and springs at the north end of the Oro Moraine at Orillia. There are many other streams of watersheds along the Oro Moraine between these two locations like Burls Creeks, Hawkestone Creek, Bluffs Creek and Bass Lake (source of the North River) just to mention a few. These all provide cold, clean, fresh water to either the Lake Simcoe or Georgian Bay watersheds and protect the quality of our freshwater.Read more
"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.
"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 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.