You have until March 7 to tell Ontario that all of the Lake Simcoe shoreline needs to be included in an expanded Greenbelt, Margaret Prophet writes.
The province recently announced that it was looking to better protect the water of 1.25 million people in the Greater Golden Horseshoe through Greenbelt expansion. The Greenbelt is a designated area within Ontario that offers the most restrictive policies about its land use. It was initially designed to protect agricultural lands, but through various studies has also shown its effectiveness in protecting wetlands, water courses and stream health. Currently, the Greenbelt mostly skirts its way around the borders of Simcoe County, and therefore two-thirds of the shoreline of Lake Simcoe is not designated in the existing Greenbelt.
The recent announcement by the province outlined study areas where the Greenbelt could be grown.
Simcoe County and its sensitive moraines, recharge areas and aquifers were included in four of the seven study areas. This is good news. It shows the province recognizes that Simcoe County and surrounding areas are highly reliant on finite groundwater resources. In fact, most municipal wells in the county rely on groundwater – only a few communities extract from Lake Simcoe or Georgian Bay. By protecting the land that protects the water, we have taken another concrete step in preserving our precious water resources.
That said, there are areas that were not included in the study areas which should be. As mentioned, two-thirds of Lake Simcoe’s shoreline is not included in the existing Greenbelt, nor was it included in these new study areas.
Science is showing us that Lake Simcoe needs more support. The Lake Simcoe Protection Plan outlines that we should endeavour to have 40-percent forest cover, but there is no policy or mechanism to make this happen. There are areas in the watershed that are vulnerable to over-development and without the Greenbelt, conservation authorities and municipalities may not have the policy framework to stop it.
Until March 7, the province wants to hear from you about where you think the Greenbelt study areas went right, and where they could be improved. There will also be open houses held early in the new year where people can meet with provincial staff and submit their feedback.
Here's what you can do:
1. People who love the lake need to come out in droves and inundate the province with messages that the shoreline of Lake Simcoe needs to be included in an expanded Greenbelt. For information on open houses, go to: http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/page17641.aspx#open_house_meetings
Now is the time to submit feedback as it will get more attention and thought then if you wait for the end.
3. The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition will feature ways that you can connect with other fellow water lovers to make your voices heard. Connect with our website: www.SimcoeCountyGreenbelt.ca to get involved.
We have a rare opportunity to stand up for our water and ensure its high standard of quality and quantity for future generations. Let’s not waste it.
Article by Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
- For individuals: http://www.simcoecountygreenbelt.ca/protect_our_waters