The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition staged a peaceful protest outside of York-Simcoe MPP Carolyn Mulroney’s office Saturday to voice their objection to the proposed Bradford Bypass connecting link between Highways 400 and 404.
About 50 protesters congregated outside the Minister of Transportation’s office in Holland Landing, holding signs that read ‘Stop the Bradford Bypass’ and cited the website: www.frogs.ca (Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces), a subsidiary group of East Gwillimbury residents who have been actively fighting to stop the proposed new controlled access highway since 1993.
“The government’s apparent ‘zeal’ to resurrect this highway on an expedited basis, combined with the apparent lack of awareness of this highway amongst most of our neighbours, has caused us to reconstitute FROGS,” read a statement from FROG’s website.
“Our objective is to add our voice to the many environmental groups in Southern Ontario who are fighting this unnecessary, obsolete highway in the hope that eventually reason will prevail and this highway will once again be stopped.”
The protest was one of many Day-of-Action demonstrations across Ontario implemented by the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition and was the largest rally that day, according to Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition.
“We’re at a situation where we want to build healthy, sustainable diverse communities, and highways just don’t do it,” Prophet said.
“I want people to know all the facts… I think about those kids, the schools, the parks, noise pollution… how will those people have their lives impacted just to move those cars? What about those families? Don’t they deserve a healthy future? Can’t we explore other opportunities?” she asked.
Saturday’s demonstration saw supporters from all over the area, including families from Bradford and individuals who drove from as far as Toronto and Muskoka to attend the peaceful protest.
“The good thing is this is community driven,” she says. “I only knew 10% of the attendees yesterday… people who used to live in Bradford (also) came to support even though they’re no longer there anymore because they care about what this will do to the environment and their children’s future.”
The Coalition has maintained the environmental assessments (EA) completed in 1997 are not up-to-date and do not align with the current policies and laws in place to protect the surrounding areas, including the Holland Marsh which is home to many wildlife species and farming.
“I want traffic concerns fixed as much as everyone else,” she states. “(But), that doesn’t mean the only option is a highway – there’s lots of options, but only one is being considered.”
As a mother of two young boys, Prophet has many concerns about the impacts construction of the highway will have on not only the environment, but as well the health implications on families in neighbouring communities of the highway build.
Prophet adds other concerns such as the inevitable widening of the highway to accommodate more future growth, as well as the overall look of an elevated highway cutting across what (she feels) should be a pleasing view of the Holland Marsh.
“Bradford has charm, but when you compare that to a highway, how much charm is this town going to have? I think there’s a lot of things that need to be considered here (but) the frustrating part is, there’s no consideration – we need to ensure we have up to date facts," said Prophet.
"Those people and families of Bradford deserve that. Lake Simcoe deserves that. What’s wrong with asking for that?," she asked. "Families will be suffering the consequences and they don’t even know yet how it will impact them,” she adds.
Since the "shelved project" became active again, Mulroney has stated multiple updates were made to the existing EA, and she has made numerous efforts to review the concerns brought forward by residents regarding the highway construction which is set to begin as early as 2022.
“Environmental stewardship is important to me,” read a statement made from MPP Mulroney’s office after the weekend protest.
“Strong environmental oversight will be maintained while this project is underway. As part of this project, we’re planning to include world-class trails for local residents and visitors to enjoy," Mulroney said in the statement. "These trails are an opportunity that we could not pass up, and the Ministry of Transportation is working closely with municipalities to identify even more opportunities.”
Among the many notes left by residents on Mulroney’s office windows opposing the Bradford Bypass, one resident wrote: “We are very supportive of the planned Bradford Bypass as we have lived in the area for over 35 years and have patiently been waiting for this road.”
“Signs are now in the ground, construction plans are progressing, the environmental assessment is underway, and public consultation has begun. The Bradford Bypass is happening,” she states.
For up-to-date information about the Bradford Bypass, click here.
To learn more about the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, click here.