This issues paper is intended to assist the Central Ontario Smart Growth Panel in developing an understanding of the current status of greenlands in this area of the Province. There is a widespread and growing concern among the public that the natural environment of the Central Ontario Zone is slowly being lost or degraded in the face of urban sprawl and scattered, unfocused development. Many people need to feel connected to the natural world around them and want to live in "green" communities, where steps have been taken to preserve unique natural areas and provide the public with access to parks and other open space amenities. This vision is reflected in one of the six stated goals of Ontario's Smart Growth initiative:

Smart Growth will work to protect the quality of our air, our land and our water by steering growth pressures away from significant agricultural lands and natural areas.

A further objective of the strategy, as outlined in the Province's Smart Growth Consultation Paper, released in fall 2001, is that Ontario will "create permanent protection for significant natural areas." This is a commendable objective, but achieving it will require a concerted effort on the part of the provincial and municipal governments, the development industry, and conservation organizations alike to fundamentally change the way we approach greenlands protection. Recent initiatives such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan represent a major step in this direction, but there is still a long way to go.

The concept of greenlands and their protection has been at the forefront of the discussion regarding urban planning, first gaining prominence with the release of the Kanter Report in the early 1990s. Over the past few year greenlands have come under even greater scrutiny in response to widespread municipal restructuring and amalgamation, legislation to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine, and the Province's Smart Growth initiative.

This paper will attempt to:

  • identify the different kinds of greenlands found in the Central Ontario Zone;
  • assess the degree of protection they currently receive;
  • identify where the greatest pressures are being exerted on greenlands;
  • highlight some of the major planning issues surrounding greenlands.

The paper will also present approaches to greenlands protection that might be incorporated into a smart growth strategy, with emphasis on some of the short-term measures that could be acted upon within the next three years. The consequences (both positive and negative) of implementing these approaches and potential barriers to their implementation are also identified.