In 2003, Markham Council examined the preferred long term uses for the East Markham lands highlighted on the adjacent map. As the adjacent map shows, significant portions of these lands are owned by the provincial government (blue and green areas) and federal government (pink area). Our governments can follow-through with the GTA Greenbelt promise by protecting these public lands as part of the Rouge Park and a larger Rouge Duffins Greenbelt area which will "Link the Lake to the Moraine".
1. Add Provincial and Federal (Public) Lands to the Rouge Park
The public lands in East Markham should be added to the Rouge Park to:
2. Keep Agricultural Preserve lands in Eastern Markham in Public Ownership
In Pickering, Duffin Rouge Agricultural Preserve lands were sold to tenant farmers at approximately $4,000 per acre, well below the price that a competitive bidding process would have realized. The low sale price was based on the "agricultural use" which was to be guaranteed in perpetuity through legal "Agriculture Easements" signed by the Province, the Region, the Town and the property purchaser as a condition of sale. Unfortunately, many purchasers of these "Agricultural Easement" properties promptly took-out mortgages with companies controlled by land speculators and developers. These land speculators are now pressuring Pickering Council and the provincial government to remove the Easements and the agricultural zoning to allow windfall land speculation profits and the construction of subdivisions.
The troubling Pickering experience demonstrates the wisdom of retaining the large tracts of public lands in Eastern Markham in public ownership.
Although FRW firmly believes that the large tracts of public land should be added to the Rouge Park, we support plans to give long-term tenants an opportunity to purchase their homes and buildings on a one or two hectare lot. We also support 20-year rollover farmland leases with reasonable rates, if an environmental farm management plan is developed and followed, to allow good long-range farm business planning and investment decisions.
3. Expand and Enhance Tableland Forest Cover, Core Areas and Linkages
Markham has less than 4% of its natural forest cover remaining and Markham makes up almost 60% of the Rouge watershed. According to modern studies, at least 30% forest cover is needed to maintain healthy water quality in a watershed and river system. The York Region Official Plan has an objective of more than 25% forest cover.
Reforestation on public land is consistent with better water and air quality, better fish and wildlife habitat, better outdoor recreation opportunities, absorption of greenhouse gases (COČ), and progress towards Official Plan objectives. Therefore, a significant portion of the lands in Eastern Markham should be restored to native forest and wildflower cover. Protection, expansion and re-connection of natural features will be necessary to achieve OPA and environmental objectives and to increase wildlife corridor and trail linkages between the Rouge, Petticoat and Duffins Creek systems.
4. Treat Farmers Fairly and Support Environmental Farm Plans
Farming is an important part of the heritage of the Rouge's communities and landscapes. FRW encourages technical and financial support from governments to help farmers move towards environmentally and economically sustainable farming. For example: