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Urban Rivers get more love with Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program grant recipients announced

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Toronto, Aug. 07, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Greenbelt Foundation and Park People are thrilled to announce the 2018 grant recipients of the Greenbelt River Valley Connector Program.

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In May 2017, when the Greenbelt was expanded to protect 21 major urban river valleys and associated coastal wetlands across the Greater Golden Horseshoe it was an important recognition that these waterways play a vital role in the ecological integrity of our urban centres – providing us with clean drinking water, local food and natural flood protection.  This expanded Greenbelt protection to the river valleys offers an opportunity to connect urban residents with the cultural and natural heritage unique to the region.   

The resulting three-year grant program was established to strengthen the broader community connection to these valley systems by supporting up to five place-based projects a year to help people explore, celebrate and enhance their local urban river valleys.

"The diversity of projects proposed through the Greenbelt Urban Valley Connector Program shows how significant these waterways are in our communities," said Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation. "Extending the Greenbelt into our urban centres provides people with a greater opportunity to enjoy nature and benefit directly from these protected systems."

"We in the GTHA are spoiled to have so much awesome natural greenspace in our communities," said Dave Harvey, Executive Director Park People. "With our friends at the Greenbelt Foundation, we can enable communities to celebrate, protect and enjoy these natural urban river valleys now and into the future. I am looking forward to seeing these park projects come to life."   

Community-based organizations including Conservation Authorities, social service agencies, local schools, non-profits and Indigenous communities were encouraged to apply to receive up to $25,000 in funding. The winning submissions for 2018 are:

The City of Markham- Shinrin Yoku Project
The City of Markham will establish a series of trails and host guided walks that promote the therapeutic practice of Forest Bathing, or Shinrin Yoku in Japanese. These paths along Greenbelt urban river valley protected lands will be the first Global Institute of Forest Therapy (GIFT) designated trails in Canada. This project will take place in four parks located in both the Rouge River and Don River watersheds in the City of Markham.

David Suzuki Foundation- The Butterflyway Project
The Butterflyway Project will engage a network of volunteer ‘Rangers' within the Mount Joy and Morningside Creek waterways in planting a network of 12 pollinator-friendly canoe garden installations in these Greenbelt protected river valleys. These garden installations will help build important pollinator habitat in the region, as well as raise awareness of how protected, naturalized river systems support the health of all species.  Each of the installations will be led by dedicated Butterfly Rangers who will work collaboratively with residents, parks staff, schools, local groups and individuals to steward and maintain the canoe gardens. The Butterflyway Project will host a series of pollinator themed celebrations to highlight the relationship between the health of local pollinators, our food system and the importance of Ontario's permanently protected Greenbelt.

Friends of Parkway Forest - "Be a Native Plant Guru" ProjectFriends of Parkway Forest Park will host a series of seven workshops connecting local newcomer groups to indigenous plants that grow in their neighbourhood ravines. The Greenbelt protected ravines in North York's densely populated Don Mills and Sheppard area are often underutilized by local residents. This program will use indigenous plants as a catalyst to build an appreciation for the Greenbelt ecosystem while helping reduce social isolation for local newcomers. Ultimately, the project will establish environmental stewards among newcomer groups in the Parkway Forest Community.

The Riverwood Conservancy - Critters and Creeks Project
Riverwood in Mississauga is a Greenbelt protected 150-acre oasis of wetlands, forests, creeks, and ravines on the bank of the Credit River and is home to The Riverwood Conservancy.  The Critters and Creeks Project will be rooted in hands-on community events that address three emerging threats to MacEwan and Chappell Creeks that flow into the Credit River: non-native invasive plants, slope erosion and off trail traffic. With an abundant portfolio of community-based programming, The Riverwood Conservancy champions the environmental stewardship of this natural area and strives to meaningfully connect people to nature.  Local events will engage the community in activities such as invasive species removals, restoration plantings and educational excursions that promote the link between water quality and the health of local ‘critters' such as birds, snakes, frogs, weasels, deer and other species. A highlight of the project will be DogFest, a day-long celebration to raise awareness about the importance of keeping dogs on-leash and picking up their waste to protect water quality and wildlife in Riverwood, and beyond. 

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) - The Ajax River Valley Biodiversity Project
The Duffins Creek in Ajax will be the focus of a youth leadership and citizen science project that will introduce Ajax high school volunteers and their families to the biodiversity in their local Greenbelt protected river valley system. The TRCA's Conservation Youth Corps ( CYC), made up of high school volunteers, will be working alongside conservation and municipal professionals to improve parks located within the Duffins Creek ecosystem. Through intensive hands-on mentorship, the youth volunteers will build a deeper understanding of the valuable role of conservation and habitat protection in our urban areas. In addition, a series of citizen science events will provide fun, hands-on family-oriented learning experiences that will draw attention to the species that make their home in the urban river valley systems. Participants will learn proper techniques to identify and monitor species using the iNaturalist app and will contribute to long-term conservation data. The programs will help youth understand their power, ability and agency to contribute to the future of our urban river valleys, and to have a voice in local environmental decision making.

About the Greenbelt:
Ontario's Greenbelt is the solution for fresh air, clean water, and a thriving economy with healthy local food and active outdoor recreation. At 2 million acres, it's the world's largest permanently protected greenbelt, keeping our farmlands, forests, and wetlands safe and secure. The Greenbelt Foundation works to help keep farmers successful, strengthen local economies, protect natural features, and promote sustainable growth.

In 2017, the Greenbelt was expanded to protect 21 major urban river valleys and associated coastal wetlands across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Learn more at greenbelt.ca.

About Park People:
Park People's mission is to build strong communities across Canada by animating and improving parks, placing them at the heart of life in the city. Park People supports and mobilizes people to help them activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities across Canada.

On social media:

Website: www.parkpeople.ca/PossibilityFlowsHere

Twitter: @Park_People

Instagram: @parkppl 

BACKGROUND:

  • The Greenbelt River Valley Connector (GRVC) Program: Over the next three years, through a collaboration between The Greenbelt Foundation and Park People, the GRVC Program will provide grants to support fifteen place-based community projects across the GTHA that will celebrate and enhance these natural protected areas.  Each project is eligible to receive up to $25,000 in funding.
  • The Greenbelt: At 2 million acres, Ontario's Greenbelt permanently protects prime farmland and diverse greenspace in our province's most densely populated region. Preserving some of Canada's best farmland, the Greenbelt supports rural economic vitality and Ontario's thriving agricultural sector.  The Greenbelt's rivers, forests and wetlands provide vital wildlife habitat, fresh drinking water, clean air and an abundance of recreational opportunities for all.
  • New Designation: In 2017, the Greenbelt was expanded to protect the major urban river valley systems (URVs) throughout the GTHA.  This new designation connects the rural landscape to our urban centres and provides residents an opportunity to enjoy the social, cultural and environmental significance of these unique natural areas in their own communities.
  • Urban River Valleys: River valleys are special places that are often undiscovered and underused in our communities.  Greenbelt protected urban river valleys serve many important environmental functions and offer tremendous potential for people to explore, celebrate and enhance.

Anthony Westenberg
Park People
416-831-7502
awestenberg@parkpeople.ca

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