By Courtney Bachar
The Province of Ontario is considering adding Darlington Provincial Park to the Greenbelt.
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, was on hand in Clarington earlier this week to announce the government’s commitment to growing the Greenbelt.
Clark says input was gathered throughout the spring, adding this could be the largest expansion to the Greenbelt since its inception in 2005.
“We heard loud and clear that we should expand and further protect the Greenbelt’s urban river valleys, including adding Darlington Provincial Park,” he says.
The province intends to add Darlington Provincial Park to the Harmony and Farewell Creek Urban River Valley, connecting it to Lake Ontario.
He adds the government received clear direction that this is an opportunity for the government, one that could add an additional 500 acres to the Greenbelt.
The province intends to consult with the public and engage with its Indigenous partners to propose the addition to the Greenbelt, which includes other urban river valleys as well.
“I’m proud to be part of a government that recognizes that there needs to be a responsible balance between managing growth and protecting the environment,” he continues, noting that’s why the province is growing the Greenbelt.
“We’re so incredibly blessed to have such beautiful natural spaces in Ontario and it’s all up to us to conserve our natural environment for today, for tomorrow, for always.”
Durham MPP Lindsey Park says Darlington Provincial Park is an amazing natural space in Clarington.
“We’re so incredibly lucky to be here to celebrate the potential of including this park in the Greenbelt,” says Park.
“Not only are we here to speak about its potential but also to build awareness of the importance of urban river valleys,” she continues. “Protecting this land will not only protect the land, but the various species that live here and their habitats.”
Park notes the park is home to many migratory birds and is a landmark for the community.
“Under this protection, we will be allowed to continue to enjoy it and future generations will be able to enjoy it as well,” she adds.
The proposal to add the park came from the Municipality of Clarington, the City of Oshawa, the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, and Conservation Ontario as part of a 60-day initial consultation to grow the Greenbelt last spring.
Oshawa Regional and City Councillor Bob Chapman, chair of the Central Interior Conservation Authority, says one thing that was learned from COVID is that people want to get out more and get back to nature.
“We do need to protect this Greenbelt, not just for the environmental pieces of it, but for getting people back to nature, and getting them out of their houses, and getting them out in the fresh air,” says Chapman.
Established under the Greenbelt Act, 2005, the Greenbelt is a broad band of protected land that currently includes more than 800,000 hectares of land in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
There are currently 21 urban river valleys in the Greenbelt, which are the valleys of rivers that pass through cities or towns and act as urban gateways to the Greenbelt.
Andrea Khanjin, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, says adding Darlington Provincial Park to the Greenbelt “builds awareness of the importance of this urban river valley area and the key role of watersheds to Ontario’s overall environmental health and the wellbeing of our communities.”
“Our government will continue to protect the environment for generations to come,” he says.