Be Active Be Healthy
Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities collectively own and operate over 500 Conservation Areas with a total area of 145,357 hectares, making Conservation Authorities one of the largest property owners in the province.
Over 270 Conservation Areas are accessible to the public. They play an important environmental, educational and recreational role in Ontario and contribute to the physical and mental wellbeing of the almost seven million people who visit them each year.
The Environmental Role of Conservation Areas
Conservation Areas play an important role in Ontario by protecting our environment, our lands and our ecosystems. They do this through soil conservation, as well as flood plain, forest and wildlife management.
Conservation Areas protect forests, wetlands, plant life and wildlife and improve the overall health of our watersheds, including the quality and supply of our water resources such as recharge areas.
The Educational Role of Conservation Areas
Conservation Areas act as living classrooms bringing people and nature together. They help teach the public about the importance of our environment and how it is impacted by our activities and lifestyles.
Conservation Authorities operate a total of 35 permanent Interpretive Centres, 23 Seasonal Centres, and include many interpretive trails and heritage features.
In 2010, 4,400 schools and over 470,000 students participate in environmental education programs run by Conservation Authorities at their Conservation Areas, which included programming for more than half of the province’s 105 school boards.
The Recreational Role of Conservation Areas
Ontario’s Conservation Areas include more than 8,400 campsites and 2,400 km of trails. Almost seven million campers and day users visited a Conservation Area in 2010 alone.
Conservation Areas encourage people to get outdoors and be active, as well as enjoy and appreciate nature. They provide year round facilities and outdoor recreational opportunities for people of all ages and a range of abilities, including picnicking, boating, camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, cycling, snow-shoeing, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and even more extreme recreational opportunities such as snowboarding, rock climbing and ice climbing.
Although some Conservation Areas have limited access in order to protect sensitive lands and/or wildlife, many provide important public recreational opportunities at low or no cost.
How and when did Conservation Areas first get established?
The first Conservation Authorities were formed when the Conservation Authorities Act was established in 1946. Conservation Area land use hasn’t changed much since the beginning – they are used for specific resource management purposes such as flood control, floodplain management, forestry, natural area preservation and to provide recreational and educational opportunities.
Outdoor recreation and environmental education has been an important component of Conservation Authority operation since the 1950s.
The Real Value of Green Space (Municipal World Magazine May 2009)