The recent Celebration of Lake Simcoe at Innisfil Beach Park drew my attention to the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This is a significant regulatory initiative that, as far as I know, the local press has only reported in generalities. The Lake Simcoe watershed occupies about 2,800 square kilometres and 47% of that is currently agricultural.
The defined Lake Simcoe watershed overlaps other planning areas such as the Greenbelt and the Oak Ridges Morraine. The mention of a target of 40% “high quality vegetative cover” in the watershed is what made my ears perk up. About 35% of the Lake Simcoe watershed is under ‘natural cover’, that is, woodlands and wetlands. The desired target would be achieved by defining vegetation protection zones around the shore of the lake and along stream banks that drain into the lake. Nor would most development or site alteration be permitted outside of “existing settlement areas”.
The minimum vegetation protection zones are:
– In a built-up shoreline area: 30 metres from the shoreline
– Outside existing settlement areas / outside shoreline built-up areas: 100 metres
A proposal for development or site alteration may be restricted if it is within 120 metres of the shore in a built-up area or within 240 metres of the shore outside existing settlement areas. Although most of the shoreline is already developed, the aim is to prevent any further loss of the natural shoreline on Lake Simcoe.
An essential part of this plan is the definition of “existing settlement areas”. They are defined as “settlement areas that are designated in an official plan on the date the Plan comes into effect”.
I was also told that the success of this plan will rely heavily on the cooperation and commitment of participating municipalities including Innisfil. This is another important issue for voters to consider before voting for Mayor and Council this fall.