Celebrating Greenbelt Expansion in the Niagara Region

Despite enormous pressures from developers and municipalities in the Niagara Region, the provincial government denied all requests to shrink and dilute the Greenbelt. This was done in two locations. One was in Grimsby south of the Niagara Escarpment, in an area that is increasingly being used for tree fruit and grape crops. Another is in a corridor from Lake Ontario to Lake Gibson, along the Twelve Mile Creek. 

The Twelve Mile Creek corridor is of great ecological and hydrological significance. It is the only remaining cold water sream in Niagara that supports a population of the Brook Trout, a sensitive ecological indicator species. With the recent Greenbelt expansion, virtually all of the rural lands in the Twelve Mile Creek watershed are now protected by the Greenbelt.

The Province’s action in expanding the Greenbelt reflected a decade of lobbying by the City of Thorold. It agreed with the City's request to expand the Greenbelt to include a green corridor from the Short Hills Provincial Park to the Welland Canal. This is a critical source of drinking water to most of Niagara’s residents.

Despite hydro dams and ruins of 19th century canals, the Twelve Mile Creek remains an important ecological corridor. Somehow an Endangered Species, the American Eel, is able to swim from Lake Ontario to the cold water headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek in the Fonthill Kame and Niagara Escarpment.

Surprisingly, one of the most biologically diverse parts of Canada is found along the Twelve Mile in the middle of the City of St. Catharines. Here in the winter time is a haven for waterfowl coming from the Arctic, such as the Mergansers and varied ducks as the Bufflehead and American Goldeneye. There is an excellent hiking and cycling trail here from Welland Vale to Martindale Road along a former street car line.

Together with Martin Munoz, an accomplished photographer, I hiked along the Meritt Trail to celebrate the expansion of the Greenbelt. Apart from the sheer beauty of the place and the abundance of waterfowl, what was most extraordinary was the abundance of beavers. One of the four we saw was captured in this moving video taken by Martin Munoz: Beaver in St Catharine's Urban Greenbelt.

Image of views along Merritt Trails, obtained from Niagara Greenbelt website.

This article was written by Dr. John Bacher, Chair and Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS).

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