This week we are having another look at our neat little crossword that graces the back cover of Edible Toronto, featuring some of Ontario’s Food Heroes, “the agencies and actors that make our city a world-renowned source of inspiring food stories.” And today we are looking at the very first clue: “The colour of the belt where possibility grows.” Spoiler alert; it’s green.
Ontario’s Greenbelt is a protected area of forests, farmlands wetlands and watersheds that was created by the Ontario Government in 2005 to curtail urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe. In the five short years between 1996 and 2001 arable land in the GTA and Hamilton decreased by over 10 percent, so the creation of the Greenbelt safeguards environmentally sensitive land, the countryside and heritage areas. Protecting prime arable land is its main purpose, but the Greenbelt also protects the 725 km long Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, the watershed between Lakes Ontario and Simcoe and the headwaters to more than thirty rivers.
It’s important to be able to have access to locally grown fruit and vegetables as well as meat and dairy that hail from nearby farms, and the Greenbelt is where much of our local food comes from, specifically areas designated under the legislation as “prime agricultural areas” and “specialty crop areas” as well as “rural areas”. The Greenbelt legally protects these areas from municipal development. The Holland Marsh, for example is comprised of almost 3,000 hectares of prime arable land composed of mostly organic soils. Just fifty km north of Toronto, it produces more than fifty million dollars worth of veggies annually; imagine if this gorgeous and vital area were not protected.
Here is a detailed mapping of the Greenbelt Area divided into 10km x10km areas. By clicking on any square you can see details specific to each division, including the protected countryside, urban river valleys, natural heritage systems, the towns and villages within and the settlement areas outside the greenbelt.
Our amazing Greenbelt is one of the largest and most successful greenbelts in existence, called “a model for the world” by the Globe and Mail. But as we all know, political will can change overnight; during the recent provincial election, Doug Ford mulled over the possibility of allowing urban development on the Greenbelt. Though he later backtracked on the promise it was a sobering wake-up call. Governments do listen to the will of the people, and one of the best things we can do to protect our greenbelt is to be vocal, and active, and ensure future governments honour their commitment to enlarge the Greenbelt, not diminish it. One of the best things we can do as individuals is to become a friend of the Greenbelt to ensure this fantastic gift keeps on giving for generations to come.