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Coalition promotes greenbelt expansion into Simcoe County

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Residents had a chance to come together with AWARE Simcoe and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition at a public forum Saturday, in Barrie.

Residents had a chance to come together with AWARE Simcoe and Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition at a public forum Saturday, in Barrie. ZACH MACPHERSON PHOTO

The clock is ticking on the future of Simcoe County's environment.

Bluebelt/Greenbelt: Simcoe's Watershed Moment — a meeting to raise public awareness about expanding the Greenbelt into Simcoe County — was held in Barrie on Saturday.

Organized by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, the meeting included 23 organizations looking to protect water sources and natural heritage systems in the area.

Expanding the greenbelt policy into the county would be a way to help do that, according coalition spokeswoman Margaret Prophet, who added that it will limit costly sprawl and ensure future growth is concentrated where infrastructure and jobs already exist while preserving farms, streams, wetlands and forests.

The Ontario Greenbelt currently extends across the Greater Golden Horseshoe, but with Simcoe County slated to grow to 667,000 by 2031, coalition members want to ensure areas of the county are afforded the same protection.

"We believe that greenbelt policy is a healthy balance of allowing our communities to grow and evolve while protecting the areas that are important to people of Simcoe County, including our beaches, lakes, streams and drinking water supply," she said, adding local politicians also took part in Saturday's event, which attracted more than 150 people.

"To us, (the turnout) showed the potential for this issue to rise above being partisan and instead, bring people together from all political stripes to help build a positive vision for Simcoe County as it continues to grow, like the non-partisan leadership that was shown in drafting the Lake Simcoe Protection Act."

Prophet said many people who attended were there to support greenbelt expansion, but others were there just to learn more about the greenbelt itself.

"Because the Greenbelt doesn't directly affect much of the county, many people are still uninformed about what the greenbelt means and what it can do," she said. "The great turnout on a Saturday morning of people from all corners of our county shows that people want to be a part of this conversation and we felt many were energetic about creating a better Simcoe County.

"First and foremost we want to engage the people and politicians of Simcoe about building a bright future for Simcoe where we can grow vibrant communities, but also ensure our drinking water, farmland and green spaces are protected for future generations," Prophet added. "We are saying that it's time for residents of Simcoe County to pay attention and ensure that we build the future, and the communities, that we want."

Saturday's event was "just the beginning of this conversation," she said.

"We look forward to connecting with more people and organizations from across Simcoe that also believe our drinking water and green spaces deserve the utmost protection in balance with our growth," Prophet said. "Residents should be writing to their local municipal councillors, to their MPP and asking for their support to extend the greenbelt further into Simcoe County."

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