Brampton’s Earth Day Celebration – A Warm Reception on a Cold Day

By: Rosemary Keenan, Sierra Club Peel Chapter Chair and David Laing, President, Brampton Environmental Alliance
Earth Day Activities

It was a brisk, enjoyable and energizing day at the first ever Grown Green Awards Celebration held at Norton Place Park this past Saturday April 23rd. Norton Place Park is a hidden gem in the heart of the City with a small lake beautifully surrounded by trees and trails. The Earth Day event was about celebrating the Brampton City’s and its residents contributions to a more environmentally friendly world.

Continue reading “Brampton’s Earth Day Celebration – A Warm Reception on a Cold Day”

Have your say on Brampton’s Parkland Dedication strategy

Etobicoke Creek Trail Conservation Park

An article in last month’s BEA Weekly described the ecosystem services provided by Brampton’s tree canopy and invited residents to offer their opinions on the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan. The City is also interested in public feedback as it works to update its Parkland Dedication by-law by this fall to conform to changes in Provincial regulation. Why is this important and why should you care?

Brampton is under tremendous pressure to accommodate population growth and maintain or increase the availability of affordable housing within its boundary limits. At the same time it strives to maintain, or improve, the quality of life for its residents and to keep Brampton as a city where people want to come to work, live and play.

An effective way to improve life quality for people living in urban settings is by providing easily accessible parkland. Access to the outdoors and communing with nature are critically important to our mental health. Providing parks and natural settings for recreation and exercise is an effective way to promote healthy active living. This is especially true in times of emotional stress, such as dealing with the effects of a global pandemic.

A December 2021 Chinese study, published in the National Library of Medicine concludes, “To achieve the goal of promoting mental wellbeing through urban planning and design during the future pandemics, policymakers and planners are advised to provide more well-maintained and accessible parkland and encourage residents to use them with proper precautions.”

Adequate parkland is an important part of economic, environmental, and social sustainability of any urban centre. In addition to supporting better health outcomes, naturalized outdoor spaces also provide a myriad of eco-system services, including air purification, temperature regulation, water filtration and flood management.

Brampton’s 2040 vision calls for the establishment of an “Eco-Park” to conserve and enhance natural systems within the City while optimizing the balance between environmental conservation on one hand and public accessibility on the other. The concept of the Eco-Park is that it will enhance Brampton’s reputation as a “green city” by evolving the natural heritage system into a network of “Eco Spaces” consisting of, parks, green spaces, green infrastructure streetscapes, utility corridors, and the front and back yards. All these spaces conforming to a set of established principles as defined in the City’s Eco-Parks strategy.

But where does the land come from to support all of these parks and recreational facilities? It turns out that much of it comes from developers through a process called “Parkland Dedication”.

Parkland Dedication is a city by-law under the planning act that requires a portion of land being proposed for development, (or re-development), to be conveyed (given) to the City for parkland. The amount depends on the land’s intended purpose. For commercial or industrial development, 2% of the property must be given to the city to be used for parkland. If the property is to be used for residential purposes, then the greater of 5%, or one hectare for every three-hundred dwelling units must be made available for parkland. This amount is exclusive of valley lands, (floodplain), water courses, buffers or easements.

The by-law also allows the developer to provide cash in lieu of handing over a portion of development project land. The cash in lieu concept is designed for the city to pool funds to buy larger tracts of land to create a smaller number of larger parks rather than having little parkettes associated with each individual development project.

Historically the Parkland Dedication by-law has allowed the city to amass significant parkland. But the approach to parkland dedication is coming under increasing criticism.

First, there is growing pressure from the development industry to cap parkland funding. The arguments are that the cost of cash in lieu of parkland is added to the home purchase price making it less affordable. It also tends to discourage higher density development where the parkland cost can be a significant portion of the overall cost of the development project based on the one hectare per 300 residential unit formula.

The second issue is that the city can sit on the reserve cash for years without finding the right opportunity to buy land suitable for parkland development. Today the reserve exceeds $100M!

The third issue is that parkland is not expanding as fast as the city is growing. Brampton currently provides 6.3 hectares of parkland for every 1,000 residents. That compares favourably to larger cities like Toronto, or Vancouver that have less than half of what we currently enjoy. But, Brampton’s population is expected to grow more than 50% in the next two decades and this growth will see increasing pressure on Brampton’s parks and green spaces unless park space is added at the same rate.

Parkland dedication is a complicated issue that will require complex solutions. The most important thing you can do is to let city staff know you care a proper ratio of parkland to people as the City grows in population and that parkland should be accessible to all by being equitably distributed across the city. Please take a moment to provide your opinion on the City’s park strategy by completing the Park’s Survey.

BikeBrampton Announces 2022 Outdoor Schedule

Recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change paint a grim future for our planet in the coming years unless we make dramatic changes in how we produce and consume energy. That scary analysis should be enough to mobilize us to take action. But what can we, as individuals, realistically do?

Carbon emissions are a waste by-product from our production and use of energy. We can lower emissions either by using less energy or by using energy from less wasteful sources. It turns out that one of the most effective things we can do here in Brampton to reduce emissions is to use our cars less and our bodies more.

A 2019 energy audit completed for the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, found that Brampton’s cars and trucks account for almost 60% of the city’s carbon emissions. And a 2016 transportation survey found that, of the 2.3M transportation trips taken in Peel Region by car each day, the median distance is just 6.3 km. That’s an hour’s walk but less than a 20 minute bike ride.

The human body uses energy very efficiently to move itself, especially when travelling by bicycle. The calories contained within a glass of orange juice will carry a cyclist about 5km. That same amount of energy derived from gasoline burned in a car’s engine, typically won’t carry the driver to the end of their driveway.

Transportation carbon intensity
Creating a cycling culture Katie Whittmann (2015)

Adding costs to the equation makes the case for travelling by bicycle even more compelling. Brampton drivers spend just under $1B per year on gasoline and diesel fuel. That’s on top of the costs for, licensing, road construction and maintenance as well as the vehicle capital and repairs. Overall, a typical motorized vehicle costs more than $6,000/year to own and operate, whereas the average cost of ownership for a bicycle is less than $100 annually.

Barriers to cycling

Access to a bicycle, perceived distance, perceived comfort, lack of skill or concerns about theft, weather and arriving sweaty to the destination are among the many reasons cited for why more people don’t use a bicycle for transportation. A barrier not often discussed, however, is a lack of cycling culture.

Cycling for transportation is considered the norm in many parts of the world where conditions are similar to those here at home. But, in many North American cities, cycling behaviour has been discouraged to the point where a person who uses a bicycle for anything other than recreation is considered second-class or more than a bit odd. Eleanor McMahon, a past Ontario cabinet minister, past Board Chair of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, and the current President and CEO of the TransCanada Trails Association, once said that, “cycling is known as a rich man’s sport, and a poor man’s second choice.”

Fortunately that perception in Ontario and specifically in Brampton is beginning to change. There is no question that cycling popularity is on the rise, especially since the pandemic began encouraging more outdoor activities. Bike retailers have had a hard time keeping up with demand and long wait times for new bicycles have only recently begun to ease.

The city of Brampton responded in 2020 initiating a “Streets for People” campaign that is building bicycle infrastructure as part of an Active Transportation Master Plan. Last year 15km of linear bicycle infrastructure was added including, multi-use paths, urban shoulders and on-street bike lanes. This year city plans call for an additional 31.5km that will flesh out a significant portion of the city-wide cycling network.

Safe infrastructure, is only one of the required elements leading to the cultural shift necessary to get folks out of their cars and onto their bikes. Education and encouragement are two other important factors. That’s where BikeBrampton and the Community Cycling Program comes in.

BikeBrampton is a volunteer group advocating for better and safer active transportation choices in Brampton and Peel Region. As the name implies active transportation is the term used to describe destination type trips that are mostly or entirely human powered including, cycling, walking, skateboarding, etc. But BikeBrampton also partners with PCHS (Punjabi Community Health Service) to deliver the Community Cycling Program (CCP) on behalf of Peel Region.

The purpose of the CCP is to increase cycling mode share by creating a cycling community and normalizing cycling as a legitimate form of transportation. The program increases access to a working bicycle through a bike lending library and by teaching basic bike maintenance skills. It also helps build familiarity, comfort and confidence for riding on existing infrastructure by teaming new and experienced riders as well as through skills training programs and group rides.

One of the more popular aspects of the program is the series of ‘BikeWrx’ pop up events at different sites in both Brampton and Caledon throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Last year’s pop ups proved very popular. According to Sonia Maset, the Brampton and Caledon Bike Hub Program Manager working for PCHS, “Our goal at the beginning of the summer of 2021 was to provide 100 hours of service to 2,000 residents between July and October at 13 different locations, 10 in Brampton and 3 Caledon. In four months, we delivered 120 hours to 2,348 residents over 46 events spanning 17 locations in the two municipalities.”

Services at these events included free bike bell and light installation (courtesy of the Region of Peel), free bike inspections, basic repairs, bike and helmet fittings, route
planning, trail etiquette, group rides, obstacle courses, and one-on-one rider education.

shows a typical pop up venue
2021 Professors Lake Pop-up

The BikeBrampton Bike Hub team is preparing once again for a full slate of outdoor events for this year in both Brampton and Caledon. Bring your bike for a free inspection and minor tune-up. Learn about route planning and bike safety. Get a free bell or bike light while supplies last. Check out the schedule on Sign up to the BikeBrampton News to stay up to date on the latest event information including Bike the Creek, Brampton’s signature cycling event.

Is our food on the cusp of a great disruption?

The Region of Peel is currently undertaking a municipal comprehensive review which is the technical process for updating the Region’s official plan. The main purpose of the update is to accommodate the projected growth in population through the year 2051. The proposed changes include a settlement area boundary expansion that would allow housing and other developments to be built on what is now agricultural land, mostly in southern Caledon. The changes are progressing as if no other options are available and are marching swiftly to a provincially driven schedule. These are, however, profound changes that would irrevocably alter the landscape of vast swaths of Peel Region. This article explores the implications of these changes on the food security of the Region.

Caledon Farming

Access to sufficient quantities of nutritious reasonably priced food is perhaps the most important factor in maintaining peaceful and productive societies. For those of us living in southern Ontario the past 70 have been the goldilocks years for food, with plentiful quantity, tremendous variety, and relatively low cost.

Now, changes are occurring that threaten the foundations on which our food security is built. COVID –19 supply chain issues combined with the war in Ukraine are obvious threats that are shocking the patterns of food sourcing and food distribution, causing intermittent bare shelves, limiting choices, and raising costs that continue taking ever bigger bytes out of consumer paycheques.  

Yet climate change will likely be the biggest long-term disruptor. The current trends indicate the goal of keeping the increase in average global temperature to 1.5C is rapidly slipping through our fingers. Under the more likely 2-2.3C scenario, Canada will look and feel like a very different place within the time horizon considered within the Regional growth plan.

Sean Smukler, a professor at University of British Columbia in the faculty of land and food systems believes that food shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic should help the general public realize the importance of building resilience into the agricultural system, preserving local food production and protecting the country’s food sovereignty.

The fact is, our traditional sources of food are becoming far less stable. Climate change will ensure they will continue to do so. At the same time, Peel Region is converting prime agricultural land to residential, commercial, and industrial uses more rapidly than ever before. The irony in the proposed settlement area boundary expansion, (SABE) should be obvious to all, calling for a phased approach to development that would allow “agriculture and agricultural activities to continue for as long as possible”. The interpretation? Significant agriculture within Peel Region will be all but eliminated by 2051 just as our food supply from traditional sources may have reached a critical stage.

We are living in rapidly changing times. The historical assumptions guiding our plans need to be challenged. While growth and affordable housing must remain priorities, we must also be realistic about the future of housing in the GTA. The aspiration of single-family home ownership, complete with picket fence and generous yard may no longer be a viable option for all. Urban sprawl type development is neither environmentally nor economically sustainable. Land is the most precious thing we have, arable land even more so.

Peel Regional Council needs to take a bold decision and freeze urban boundary expansion beyond its current limits. Planners and developers must be challenged to create higher density solutions that would accommodate population growth within existing boundaries while leaving room for greenspace and sufficient agricultural land which could supply locally grown food for residents in Peel and the GTA. Locally grown food is not a panacea. It should however, be a significant part of the food sourcing equation. Anything less is just not prudent.