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The vanishing land

September 16, 2010  By Marg Land

The recent death of my equine companion of 15 years sent me on a trip
down memory lane, recalling the many roads, trails and wilderness we
had travelled throughout Brant and Norfolk counties.

The recent death of my equine companion of 15 years sent me on a trip down memory lane, recalling the many roads, trails and wilderness we had travelled throughout Brant and Norfolk counties. The reminiscing eventually led me to pile my kids in the car for a drive around the countryside to view our old stomping grounds. What resulted left me a bit shocked.

Our first destination was the back roads around my parents’ farm. Imagine my surprise when instead of seeing cultivated fields and pristine forests, I viewed new monstrous homes carved out of the trees or the land.

“We used to slide down that gully,” I said to my kids, pointing to a slight hillock in the backyard of a newly constructed home.

“What gully?” my daughter asked, her nose pressed against the glass of the back window.

Well, it used to be there. I can remember the feeling of descending it, the thrill of viewing the steep drop from the top, the feel of the stirrups as I braced my boots against them, keeping my body balanced with the horse, the feel of the sand being kicked up by her hooves. It’s just a memory now.

We drove off toward a nearby city where I lived for a brief time with my husband before I convinced him the country was the place to be. I had boarded my equine companion on the outskirts of the city at a small boarding stable. The pair of us would bypass the indoor arena, instead trotting down the old abandoned rail bed behind the farm, or galloping through the nearby hay fields or corn stubble. There was an old apple tree along the side of one field where we always stopped in the late summer for a snack. In the winter, with a deep bed of snow on the ground, we would walk the fields, enjoying the sting of the wind and the silence of the snow.

While the boarding stable is still there, the fields around it are gone. A golf course has been built where the hay field once was, huge subdivisions have sprouted where the corn stubble spiked from the ground, the apple tree has been cut down, and the rail bed has now been converted into a walking trail – no horses or motorized vehicles allowed, thank you.

As I drove the kids back home, our journey down memory lane a bust, all I could think of was that hackneyed adage: you can never go back.

Why not? Why must progress and expansion always involve digging a new foundation into an agricultural field, cutting down an apple tree, or sodding over a productive expanse of ground to build a golf course? Why must urban expansion always be outward? Do planners ever look within?

These are the same kind of questions and concerns shared by the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO), which recently released a commentary sharing the organization’s thoughts on land use in light of the current review of Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), which sets out the government’s policy direction for land use planning and development.

The CFFO is concerned with the expansion of settlement areas into agriculture land, particularly the impact of aggregate extraction in specialty crop areas, and believes the province should be providing incentives to developers to redevelop brownfields within cities.

“Agriculture is conspicuously absent from a list of planning factors known to contribute to community within the Provincial Policy Statement,” says Nathan Stevens, research and policy advisor for the CFFO. “Planners need to be aware of the importance of agriculture in the community and include it in their deliberations.”

All Ontario farmers should be concerned with the current PPS review, which occurs every five years and was the policy basis upon which the Greenbelt Plan was built.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which is undertaking the review, is urging anyone who wishes to comment on “how the PPS is working and whether any changes are needed” to contribute to the review.

To do so, they ask you review the current PPS, established in 2005, at . With the current PPS in mind, you are asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What policies of the current PPS are working effectively?
  2. Are there policies that need clarification or refinement?
  3. Are there policies that are no longer needed?
  4. Are there new policy areas or issues that the province needs to provide land use planning direction on?
  5. Is additional support material needed to implement the PPS?
  6. Do you have any other comments about the PPS?

To contribute feedback to the PPS review process, you can submit comments via e-mail to, or fill out an electronic form at . You can also send written comments by mail to: Provincial Policy Statement Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, Provincial Planning Policy Branch, 777 Bay St., 14th Floor, Toronto, Ont. M5G 2E5.

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