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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Give your input on the exapansion of the greenbelt!

2008 may be the year for the green to grow.

The province wants your ideas on how to handle requests to expand the Greenbelt boundaries, which is music to environmentalists’ ears.

A draft criteria has been developed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to allow for applications from regional, county and single-tier governments to expand Greenbelt boundaries. Any suggestions asking for the reduction or the removal of Greenbelt areas will not be considered.

The news seems good, said Natalie Helferty, ecologist and past president of the Richmond Hill Naturalists. The government moving forward after the creation of the Greenbelt in 2005 is a positive sign for the province and the environment, she added.

“There are urban areas (that need to be protected) in Richmond Hill, the David Dunlap Observatory and all river corridors up to Lake Simcoe at the minimum,” Ms Helferty said.

Safeguarding the environment and natural ecosystems is part of the Greenbelt plan.

The Greenbelt identifies where growth and development can and cannot take place.

Rapid growth in the region is cause for concern when it comes to protecting sensitive areas, Ms Helferty said. Areas designated for growth need to be looked at carefully and the feasibility of building beyond Greenbelt boundaries on sensitive land should be carefull considered in the expanded areas, she said.

News of input into the expansion of the Greenbelt is nothing new, said Gloria Marsh, York Region Environmental Alliance chairperson. Just because the Greenbelt can expand, doesn’t mean it will offer more environmental protection, she said.

Harold Sellers, Oak Ridges Trail Association executive director, agreed with Ms Marsh in that sensitive areas need protection.

“There are some buffer areas for the Oak Ridges Moraine that would benefit from some levels of protection,” he said.

He wants to see the southern part of Simcoe County considered as part of the Greenbelt, which would protect it from the rapid development taking place.

“From our perspective, having recreational trails, people want to be in natural areas,” Mr. Sellers said. “The more

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