By: Thaia Jones
Speech to be given at the Greenbelt Celebration on February 28th at Mississauga's Celebration Square:
Happy 9th Birthday Greenbelt! I’m Thaia Jones of Sierra Club of Peel. I’m excited to be here even though I don’t have any skates. Why, you might ask, am I so excited to celebrate down here in Mississauga, when the Greenbelt is way up there in north Caledon and beyond?
Well, I’m excited because we have a very special relationship with that Greenbelt. Mississauga and the Greenbelt balance each other out. We’re like 2 sides of a coin, ying and yang, stop and go. We need each other and we work well together. How so, you might ask?
Twenty-eight years ago when I moved here, parts of Mississauga still looked a lot like Greenbelt. Half of my block was still a woodlot. If I left the patio door open at night, the local skunk wandered in. We picked our own apples in an orchard just north of Burnhamthorpe. We had a marsh with lots of songbirds just over on Mavis. Then came progress and development. Mississauga expanded fast, into a bustling, flourishing city. My city! In the process we lost a lot of the natural world.
But we didn’t exactly lose it, we transferred it, locked it in securely, assured its permanence! That happened just 9 years ago when our government legislated the Ontario Greenbelt. Now, everyone in the Golden Horseshoe gets to share 1.8 million acres of secure natural heritage.
So now I can drive north to pick my apples, or, I can just walk over to my local Farmer’s Market to buy apples or any of a huge variety of locally grown produce. Now I can bike or fish along The Credit River and know that the springs and marshes that create that river won’t ever be paved over in the Greenbelt. I can take a big lungful of city air and know that it is being cleaned of a lot of its pollutants by the forests and greenery of the Greenbelt. Research shows that one mature tree will produce enough oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year. How about that for a benefit to the city! And as for the skunks that used to wander in – well they are welcome to stay up there and enjoy the fresh air first hand.
There is one more piece of good news to celebrate. Turns out the Greenbelt isn’t so ‘way up there’ after all. The rivers and streams that rise in our section of the Greenbelt flow all the way down through Mississauga into Lake Ontario, bringing wildlife up and down these natural corridors, connecting us top and bottom. Mississauga already has strong environmental protections for these natural valley lands but now we may be going one step further. There is an exciting new category of Greenbelt called the Urban River Valley Greenbelt Designation. Mississauga is moving along fast with checking out the requirements and researching the costs and benefits. It could very well be that when the Greenbelt’s 10th birthday rolls around we will be saying best wishes to our very own section of urban river greenbelt right here in town!