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City wants to add Don and Humber rivers to Greenbelt

Mar 03, 2010

The City of Toronto has become the first Ontario municipality seeking to add two of its cherished urban green spaces, the Humber and Don river valleys, to the provincial Greenbelt. 

Mayor David Miller and Ward 30 (Toronto-Danforth) Councillor Paula Fletcher, who also chairs the city's parks and environment committee, gathered on the banks of the Lower Don River last Friday morning - just two days before the Greenbelt's fifth anniversary - for the announcement.

Congratulating Fletcher for all of her hard work on this project as well as crediting the province for its successful Places to Grow Act, the outgoing mayor spoke about the importance of ensuring the rock-solid protection of urban green spaces, like the Humber and Don river valleys, from development.

Municipal bylaws, which can be easily altered, are already in place to protect those environmentally sensitive lands. Being part of the Greenbelt would give the Humber and Don river valleys an additional layer of protection against encroachment.

"Quality of life is about saving beauty in all its forms, especially natural ones... If you want to live in a city that has these beautiful ravines, you have to protect them," Miller said, further noting that joining the provincial Greenbelt would link the ecologically sensitive Don and Humber river valleys to the rest of Ontario's protected Greenbelt as well as Lake Ontario, which in turn would allow animal and wildlife species to have an even greater chance of surviving and thriving.

"Together with the province we can grow the Greenbelt," Miller said.

"I can think of no more fitting way to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Ontario's Greenbelt than to have the Don and Humber rivers become part of it... The future addition of these two valleys as requested by City Council would mean all three of our cherished river systems will be protected for generations to come," he said in a news release.

Scarborough's Rouge Valley is already a part of the provincial Greenbelt.

Last week, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to make a formal request to the province to add the two urban river valleys to the roster of protected Greenbelt lands.

The new Greenbelt designation for the Don and Humber river valleys - both located on publicly owned lands - could be official by this fall, Fletcher said.

"This is a very big initiative from the city, a simple but far-reaching initiative that will have dividends for years to come. This is a big moment in the natural history of the city," she smiled.

"It's a move that will bring big returns from an environmental and educational perspective at no cost to the city," she said in a communique.

"By assuming stewardship of these lands for generations to come, we are recognizing the connection between our natural heritage features and the larger ecosystem that sustains us. What a legacy this will be for so many Torontonians who've worked so hard to clean up our rivers, preserve ravines and protect our environment."

Last fall, the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) brought forward the proposal to the city's parks and environment committee.

"It strengthens protection beyond municipal levels. It's a positive step for the city as a whole," said Jamie Kirkpatrick, a Greenbelt campaigner for the TEA, at the announcement.

"It's basically a Teflon coating for the Don and Humber river valleys, in a good way."

Jim Bradley, Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, also attended the event to show his support for the plan to designate the 53-kilometre long Don River and 37-kilometre long Humber River as part of the Greenbelt.

"What a great way to celebrate (the fifth anniversary of the greenbelt.) We couldn't have asked for a more appropriate day than today," Bradley said, crediting his predecessor John Gerretson, Kingston and the Islands MPP, for all of his hard work on the expansion of the Greenbelt.

"The Greenbelt pays a lot of ecological bills," Bradley said, noting the establishment of the Greenbelt was done in a way to preserve Ontario's valuable green spaces, while ensuring adequate space for growth in areas where jobs are available.

"When we protect our waterways and our greenbelt we all win."

Ontario's Greenbelt protects roughly 1.8 million acres of valuable farmland and environmentally sensitive green space in southern Ontario from urban encroachment. The protected land includes dozens of rivers and streams, watersheds, and groundwater sources, not to mention the habitat of 66 endangered species.

As published at: http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/local/article/625960--city-wants-to-add-don-and-humber-rivers-to-greenbelt

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