With ice storms, deep freezes, daily blizzards and uncooperative groundhogs it may be hard to believe but spring has come early to Ontario’s Greenbelt. The seeds carefully planted by many people and organizations seasons ago are now starting to break though the frozen ground and green shoots can be seen emerging.
It’s true that we aren’t talking about the season of spring, which if Wiarton Willie is right is right is still at least six weeks away. But we are talking about a new time of growth in the Greenbelt, thanks to recent moves by Mississauga and Oakville. This week councils in both Mississauga and Oakville voted to add lands to the Greenbelt. It’s a fitting birthday present for the Greenbelt, which turns nine-years old later this month. Just last year in our report, Good Things Growing in Ontario: Expanding Ontario’s Greenbelt Through Urban River Valleys, we identified these two cities as prime places to bring the Greenbelt closer to their residents.
Back in November 2012, we were excited to see the first Greenbelt growth shoot in Oakville, when the Glenorchy Conservation Area, a swath of provincially owned lands, was added to the Greenbelt’s protective fold. This week, in the space of three days, we’ve seen two more shoots emerge: in Oakville on Monday, when council unanimously voted to add Fourteen Mile Creek to the Greenbelt, and on Wednesday in Mississauga, when council voted to continue moving towards including lands along the Credit River and the Etobicoke Creek in the Greenbelt. Next, it’s up to the regional governments to ratify the cities’ requests, and then for the province to make the Greenbelt designation official.
Ontario’s Greenbelt is the world’s largest and most ecologically diverse barrier against urban sprawl. The 1.8 million acre Greenbelt was created in 2005 to protect our green space, farmland, local food sources, rivers, streams and environmentally sensitive areas from urban sprawl. To see Mississauga and Oakville, two of the Greater Golden Horseshoe region’s fastest growing municipalities, embrace Greenbelt protection for some of their most environmentally important lands shows just how successful it is in helping our region grow sustainably. Environmental Defence and our partners in the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance will be working closely with these and other municipalities to see this growth spurt continue, and bring more people into closer contact with this unique feature of our regional landscape.
Southern Ontario can feel cold and bleak sometimes, but as these new Greenbelt shoots show, with team work and determination we can still make amazing things happen in the harshest of winters.