The government of Ontario announced Tuesday it is preparing to initiate consultations in connection with a proposal to add the Glenorchy Conservation Area to Ontario’s Greenbelt.
If the proposal outlined yesterday at a press conference at Oakville’s historic Palermo Schoolhouse is approved, the 255-hectare area of northern Oakville would be the first addition to Ontario’s Greenbelt since the Greenbelt was created in 2005.
The Greenbelt is currently made up of 1.8 million acres of protected green space and farmland across southern Ontario.
Glenorchy — Scottish for ‘valley of tumbling waters’ — includes rolling hills, forest, creeks, wetlands, and the Sixteen Mile Creek valley and gorge.
The Glenorchy Conservation Area is bounded by Regional Road 25, Hwy. 407, Neyagawa Boulevard and Dundas Street.
“Adding these lands to the Greenbelt, we believe, is an important step in protecting our conservation areas and our environment for the future and we want to make sure we do it the right way,” said Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn.
“As part of our commitment to growing the Greenbelt, the Province, through the Ministry of Natural Resources’ 50 million tree program, will supply as many trees as Conservation Halton asks for, to support the full restoration of the Glenorchy lands.”
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton called the proposed Greenbelt addition important as it gives Glenorchy added protection against development.
Burton said he hopes to see the rest of Oakville’s natural heritage system and Halton Region’s enhanced natural heritage system receive similar protection one day soon.
Oakville Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to support the inclusion of the Glenorchy lands within the Greenbelt.
Halton Region Chair Gary Carr said working to maintain and enhance Halton’s natural features not only makes Halton a great place to live, but also a great place to work. That attracts business, which in turn betters the local economy.
In addition to the Glenorchy project, Flynn said, the Province is also preparing to initiate consultations regarding a new Urban River Valley Designation for the Greenbelt Plan.
This new designation would help facilitate adding publicly-owned lands in urban river valleys currently outside the Greenbelt into the plan.
Flynn said the designation would allow for the protection of these urban river valleys while permitting municipalities to build essential infrastructure, like flood ponds, when necessary.
Oakville council’s support of Glenorchy’s inclusion in the Greenbelt is contingent upon the Urban River Valley Designation being adopted.
John Vice of Conservation Halton said since 2009, his group has been working with community groups, volunteers and others to restore 170 hectares of the Glenorchy Conservation Area to its natural state.
“We’ve planted more than 52,000 trees and shrubs as well as wetland grasses and prairie grasses to create habitat for song birds, frogs, turtles, salamanders and other wildlife,” said Vice.
“Once this work is done, Glenorchy will be open to the public and members of the community will be able to walk its trails and enjoy natural areas only a few minutes from downtown Oakville.”
Vice said much work still needs to be done and Conservation Halton is continuing to look for community partners to help them finish the job.
Flynn said consultation schedules and locations for the proposed Glenorchy addition and the Urban River Valley Designation proposal would be released soon.