Margaret's Story | BY: Erica Woods, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
The Beginning of a movement
In 2013, Midhurst resident and stay-at-home mom Margaret Prophet went to a community meeting about a proposed development. Margaret left the meeting shocked by the sense that the community was being run over roughshod by developers’ plans to increase a rural community from 3,500 residents to 30,000 residents and build on over 2,000 acres of prime farmland, and the message to residents was there was no way to say no.
"I couldn’t believe this was happening in our community. There has to be something else motivating our society other than just money,” says Margaret, recalling that meeting. So, Margaret decided to do something. She joined the Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) and later co-founded the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. After watching the Town Council ignore a petition with over 40,000 signatures asking for basics like a financial impact analysis of the proposed Midhurst Secondary Plan, Margaret and her neighbours worked tirelessly to get a new Mayor, Deputy Mayor and slate of councillors elected.
Margaret Prophet, co-founded the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition to give citizens a voice in the future of Simcoe County. Right Photo courtesy of Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
We did the hard work of knocking on doors, sending out mailers, going to community events, and talking to our neighbours about the issues. In the end 4/5 of the slate of candidates the MRA endorsed were elected," says Margaret.
Now, Margaret is taking her talents to the goal of growing the Greenbelt to include Simcoe County. While she’s pleased with the Province’s plan to designate 21 Urban River Valleys as part of the Greenbelt, Margaret wants the Province to do more to protect Simcoe’s “treasure trove” of water resources and farmland.
A coalition of 30 organizations including naturalists, environmental groups, ratepayers associations, and agricultural groups has signed on to the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. This grassroots movement is building community support to make sure the landscape that makes Simcoe a place to call home is protected for the next generation.
“I want a Simcoe County I can be proud to leave for my kids,” says Margaret. “That means natural areas they can go hiking in, beaches to go to without fear of E. coli, clean drinking water from their taps, walkable and lively communities in natural growth areas like Barrie, local produce to buy from thriving farms.”
Looking to the future
Right now, that future isn’t a sure bet. Systemic planning shortfalls have meant the loss of green spaces, wetlands, and farmlands. In the last 40 years, Barrie alone lost 154 km2 of natural space – roughly 26,000 football fields – to urban sprawl. Meanwhile, since 2006 Simcoe County has released more greenfield space for development than any other municipality in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Simcoe seen more Level 1 droughts, more beach advisories and closures, and more traffic congestion than ever before. Farms are being segmented and the secondary businesses needed to support a vibrant agricultural community like tractor dealerships and abattoirs are closing their doors.
But Margaret is ever hopeful, and has seen firsthand what is possible when people get involved in their community.
We asked Margaret why she’s spending her free time becoming a citizen expert and reading about watersheds and secondary plans. She told us, “no matter what happens, I have to be able to say to my kids ‘you know what, I really tried’. We have to be accountable to future generations. If everyone stepped up and took a little more accountability, the world would be a better place.”
Visit simcoecountygreenbelt.ca to get started. Learn more and share your knowledge on Facebook, Twitter, and in conversations with neighbours and friends.