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Humber, Don rivers added to Greenbelt

Humber, Don rivers added to Greenbelt - image

Mayor David Miller celebrated the imminent inclusion of Toronto’s Don and Humber River Valleys within southern Ontario’s protected Greenbelt on Friday, making them entirely untouchable by developers.

“There are still always attempts to encroach on this greenspace,” said Mr. Miller. “If you want to live in a city with these beautiful ravines, you have to protect them.”

Speaking from the banks of the Don River, a picturesque sight following this morning’s snowfall, Mr. Miller called Torontonians “great environmentalists” who want the greenspace mixed with their urban landscape protected from development.

On Tuesday, city council unanimously agreed to request the province add the two ravines to their protected greenbelt. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Bradley said the province will quickly approve the city’s request, making it the first greenbelt to cut through Toronto’s dense urban population.

“Ontarians wanted something better than unsustainable, sprawling development and the congestion and pollution it brings with it,” said Mr. Bradley.

Ontario’s Greenbelt includes 1.8 million acres of farmland, forests and watersheds, including areas in the Niagara escarpment and Oak Ridges Moraine area. Toronto’s Rouge River park, east of Markham, is already protected.

The 37-kilometre-long Humber River and the 53-kilometre-long Don River would connect other areas of the Greenbelt to Lake Ontario.

Ontario’s Greenbelt plan celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend. In 2008, the province developed criteria for municipalities who want to add land to the Greenbelt. Toronto will be the first region have an area added since then.

The city had already placed major limitations on construction in the flood plains, following 1954’s devastating Hurricane Hazel. This move, Mr. Bradley said, is more than just symbolic.

“This adds some permanency to that,” he said. “This area is provincially protected now.”

Mr. Bradley said the Greenbelt already “pays a lot of ecological bills” by cleaning the air and protecting agricultural farmland, adding it works out to be $2.6-billion in economic benefit.

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