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The province is taking steps to ensure that you don’t have to drive more than three hours north to enjoy nature.
At the Kortright Centre recently, Minister of Municipal Affairs Jim Watson announced a new plan to expand the Greenbelt.
Applications from municipalities interested in growing the swath of forests, wetlands and farmlands around Ontario will be assessed using the criteria unveiled last week.
The province consulted municipalities, stakeholders and the public to establish a set of guidelines, which build on the Greenbelt Act of 2005. Requests to reduce or eliminate sections of the Greenbelt will not be accepted.
“What we’re asking our municipal partners to do today is consider the criteria we’ve set forward,” Watson said at the press conference. “And if they’re interested in growing the Greenbelt, then they can put in an application.”
Requests from municipalities must:  detail how that political body engaged the public, key stakeholders and aboriginal communities; demonstrate the area targeted for expansion is adjacent to the greenbelt; identify how the plan adheres to Greenbelt Plan policies; and link at least one Greenbelt system (such as the natural heritage system or water resource system) to the area of proposed expansion.
Consideration will also be given to how a municipality’s proposal complements the growth plan for the greater golden horseshoe, and its timing and relationship to other provincial programs.
Currently the Greenbelt occupies 1.8 million acres of land, which is larger than all of Prince Edward Island.
“I’d like to think that we could reach two or three Prince Edward Islands in the Greenbelt in the next few years,” Dr. Rick Smith of Environmental Defence said last week.
The Kortright Centre, Boyd Park and a chunk of land near the McMichael gallery are the furthest south the Greenbelt extends in this area, representing an island of green in an urban landscape, Smith said.
By Corey Lewis.