Save Huttonville Forest…for the generation that will inherit our mistakes

Huttonville Forest
Photo: courtesy of Ken MacDonald

Submitted by: Save Huttonville Forest member Ken MacDonald

A year ago, a Brampton resident stumbled upon a peculiar finding on City maps, while searching for future walking trail plans in his new Huttonville neighbourhood.  Placing a digital image of subdivision proposals over Google Map images revealed that 37 houses were to placed directly over a thick forest overlooking the Credit River.  The discovery led to conversations with long-time residents who had attended past City planning meetings and were equally baffled with the forest destruction.  The concerned residents launched a “Save Huttonville Forest” campaign to investigate how 3 hectares of protected greenspace and locally-significant wetland on the river’s edge had been released into the hands of developer Great Gulf Homes.

The so-named Huttonville Forest sits at the rear of the village’s most historic 200-year farm on a high and picturesque tract of table land on the south side of the Credit River. Ironically, it is directly beside Heritage Road where the much-maligned Highway 413 would slice its way through this last major development frontier of Brampton, if the Progressive Conservative government has its way. 

The “Save Huttonville Forest” team went to work, establishing a Facebook Group to document and share its findings with the community and environmental groups, like the Brampton Environmental Alliance, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defence and others who would care about this destruction. 

Meetings were held with the City, the developer and twice with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC).  Further  freedom of information (FOI) documentation disclosed that this important greenspace was transferred by the City, to the developer, against the recommendations of the CVC. The only reference to the land transfer was an arrow in a thick planning report pointing to a “boundary change.”  This City action to transfer the lands is estimated to have created an instant $50 million windfall to Great Gulf Homes .  After being pressed for answers, neither the City nor the CVC has yet produced any information to suggest that they received any compensation for the forest.  A formula normally applies requiring hectare-for-hectare compensatory plantings when trees are removed from table lands.  In this case, City direction to the consultants who produced developer-funded “Environmental Impact Studies” was that the Huttonville Forest be designated as “Valleyland.” In City vernacular, that label exempts lands entirely from the rigor of detailed tree and vegetation analysis and compensation.

Massive Executive houses, that few can afford will replace the decades old forest land that now tumbles irregularly down the river slope.  The land is poised to receive final plan approval, unless something is done, and will be shaved clean of all life and vegetation, and then filled in with several metres of soil to match the adjacent table lands.

The greenspace boundary change, amending the community’s approved official Secondary Plan, that took place  in 2010, without CVC approval and without any public disclosure to citizens, was the first deviation to public process.  More followed.  The one (and only) public meeting held on April 9, 2018, failed again to disclose to participants that the thriving forest was underneath the housing blocks displayed to the public.  Again later, no public notice was given to residents, when a Draft Plan and Rezoning of the lands was considered by the Planning and Development Committee of Council in 2021 . During that meeting, it would appear one local Councillor was cognisant of the blindsiding of citizens. He asked, explicitly, that before the motion be heard again, that City staff “extend the distance requirements for notice of this application to all residents of River Road (the Huttonville residents most affected by the project).” City staff did not comply with this formal Council request, taking away any opportunity for knowledge-of, and challenge-to the forest destruction, by citizens. 

Save Huttonville Forest team is committed to fighting this, but there’s nothing like the passion found in the words of Grade 7 student Shaurya Jadeja, from Cheyne Middle School.  His class wrote letters to local politicians, after learning of our issue, expressing in some cases a very raw fear for their own future, with the environmental destruction they see. 

Shaurya wrote: “Huttonville forest has been around for decades, the ecosystem has been built so strong that taking away parts of the forest is going to affect not only us as humans but the entire ecosystem chain.  I understand that you want to grow your city, which is a great idea, but I suggest that you grow your city in places that might not be affected as much as Huttonville forest. On another note, Huttonville residents need to agree on the terms of new houses being built over their land. Sources show that in 2009 and 2010 the decision was made to destroy the forest but in hidden documents. Why? Also, later in the year 2018 a public meeting was held, though the builder doesn’t show the plans of the forest being cut down. What are your thoughts about the incident? The information presented in the year 2018 misled the public into agreeing with the “draft plan”. Though in the year 2021 the residents of the area soon come to understand that the “draft plan” was to destroy the Huttonville forest but it was too late it was virtually impossible to change it now. But I haven’t given up yet and it is never too late to do the right thing. Also, CVC should be protecting the areas that are close to rivers to protect the health of watersheds. Yet they are not. What do you have to say about this?”  The destruction of Huttonville forest is not only affecting the animals in a way of living but is also taking away their home, taking away their family and much more. I really hope that you take this letter to heart and that you rethink your plan. Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing Huttonville forest but not the houses, the trees.”

It is unclear why local Councillors have chosen not to call for deeper investigation into this issue.  Not one member of Council has spoken to the Save Huttonville Forest team and the only response to date, is a brief e-mail stating that a public meeting was held, and that notice was in compliance with policy. 

Without a strong public outcry, we fear this forest and wetland is doomed.  We urge readers to challenge this loss of precious forest, by sharing this information and contacting city politicians.  To learn more, please visit, and consider joining, the public Facebook Group site “SAVE HUTTONVILLE FOREST”

A footnote: Huttonville Forest is estimated to contain 5000 mature CO2-absorbing trees (10% of the small sapling plantings the City strives to plant each year). In 2019, Brampton City Council voted unanimously to declare a “climate emergency” aiming to reduce CO2 by 80 per cent by the year 2050.  Current science indicates that even if all existing climate pledges are achieved, they won’t be enough to reduce global energy-related CO2 emissions to net zero by 2050.  Shaurya, presently age 13, will be 41 in 2050, and perhaps raising his own children, when a potential 2-3-degree Celsius rise in world temperatures will begin to display catastrophic effects.

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