The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) is a regionally focused environmental organization (say that three times fast!) that advocates for expanding Ontario’s Greenbelt, for transparency and accountability in how we make decisions about growth, and for the power of community in addressing many of the challenges we face today.
We strongly believe that better land-use planning is one of the best ways we can enhance our environment and build equity in our communities.
Director of Regional Planning, Waterloo (Former); Member of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council (Former)
The Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition is a not-for-profit group, living wage employer, that was established in 2015 as collaboration between various Simcoe County and provincial organizations aimed at growing the Greenbelt to better protect our water, natural heritage and farmland.
All members of our coalition have agreed in principle to this pledge:
“A healthy environment is critical to our communities’ future. Farmland, water and natural heritage are key components of a healthy environment and thriving economy, and they need better protection.
Thus, I/we pledge to support the expansion of the Greenbelt in Simcoe County, so that current and future generations can benefit from clean water, local food and green spaces.”
Our coalition is comprised of roughly 40 member organizations, including:
AWARE Simcoe, Bass Lake Association, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, Carden Field Naturalists, Chippewas of Georgina Island, Collingwood Climate Action Team (CCAT), Concerned Residents of Ramara, Earthroots, Ecospark, Elmvale Foundation, Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations (FoTTSA), Food and Water First, Save Strawberry Island, Friends of Simcoe Forests, Ganaraska Trail Association, Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association (HVPOA), Huronia Land Conservancy, Innisfil District Association (IDA), Lake Simcoe Association, Living Green Barrie, Midhurst Ratepayers Association, Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists, Nature Barrie, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, Nottawasaga Steelheaders, Ontario Farmland Preservation, Ontario Headwaters Institute, Ontario Nature, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, STORM Coalition, Couchiching Conservancy, Water is Life: Coalition for Water Justice, West Oro Ratepayers Association
Sandy Agnew was trained as a certified chemical engineering technician (Seneca College, 1972) and worked in the fields of waste water treatment, waste disposal and recycling and health and safety. In 1999 he obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Ecosystem Restoration (Niagara College) and became accredited as a MNRF Managed Forest Plan approver in 2005. Now semi-retired, he worked in the ecological restoration and forest management fields operating his consulting business, Ecosystem Restoration Services from his property in Oro-Medonte Township, on which he established a Conservation Easement through the Couchiching Conservancy.
Sandy served as Councillor in Oro-Medonte Township from 2006 to 2010 and has served on the boards of the Nottawasaga Valley and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authorities. He currently sits on the provincial Lake Simcoe Coordinating Committee and AWARE Simcoe board as well as chairing the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. Sandy is also active in numerous other non-government environmental organizations.
Adam Ballah, M.E.S.
Policy and Communications
Adam has a Masters and Bachelors of Environmental Studies, both from the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. In his undergrad he focused on identifying and addressing risk and vulnerability associated with climate change, and for his Masters he focused on how modern technology mediates our experience of life.
Adam has been a community organizer and activist for as long as he can remember, spending time working for Greenpeace and Western Canada Wilderness Committee in Vancouver, participating in campaigns against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, and more recently attempting to address the highly polarized style of debate taking place via social media by organizing community socials addressing politically salient topics.
Adam brings an understanding of political strategy and discourse methods to his work with SCGC’s communications, and a strong belief in the value of community. Adam has been a member of the SCGC since the start, and considers its work crucial to helping foster a healthier and more just society.
Graphic Design Advanced (Hons)
Ryerson University - AICB, Business/Commerce
Anna worked for a financial institution for 22 years, progressing to a position as a Relationship Manager, with their Marketing/Information Technology Group.
Anna’s move to Simcoe County in early 2003 found her living in a rural community after a 40+ years in Toronto. A change in career was needed and Anna decided to follow her first love of art and design by returning to school to be retrained as a Graphic Designer.
Anna has volunteered her graphic design skills to several organizations over the past 15 years. Anna is currently involved as part of the Fundraising Committee for Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition and is the Secretary for AWARE-Simcoe. Anna is also a Director with the Concerned Citizens of Ramara. Anna is committed to adding her voice to environmental and socio-economic issues.
“We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.” Nelson Mandela
David Jeffery, M.Ed.
David was recently the founding Executive Director of the Centre de santé communautaire Chigamik Community Health Centre a primary health care centre dedicated to the delivery of culturally competent care to Aboriginal, Francophone and the rest of the residents of North Simcoe. Most recently he was the National Director of Development for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) driving fundraising and organizational change.
He spent seven years as the Executive Director of the United Way of Greater Simcoe County successfully growing the campaign and initiating or leading programs such as Success By 6, the 211 Project and the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness. During the ten years prior to the United Way he consulted extensively in both the private and voluntary sectors on topics such as organization effectiveness, structure and accountability and community development.
Social Justice, equity and reconciliation have been driving features of his work and volunteer life. Currently, he is a member of the Ontario Reform Gravel Mining Coalition (RGMC) coordinating Committee. He co-chairs the North Simcoe Age Friendly Community working group, in partnership with the North Simcoe Ontario Health Team. and is a member of the Simcoe County Chapter of the Canadian International Council.
David tends to a small apiary, a large garden, gets his hands into multi and various building and woodworking projects, paddles the Wye river and engages with his surrounding community.
He holds a Masters of Adult Education, specializing in work place change and community development from the University of Toronto. He lives with his family in Tiny Twp, Ontario.
Tom Kurtz, M.A.Sc.
Tom graduated from University of Windsor in 1964 as a Civil Engineer and went on to achieve a Masters degree specializing in hydraulics and hydrology in 1965.
Tom’s education, professional training and wide ranging involvement in water management activities brings a wealth of experience to the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. His career with the Ministry of Natural Resources ranged from service and advice to Conservation Authorities, policy development with municipal, provincial, federal and international agencies and support of professional organizations such as the Soil and Water Conservation Society where he served as the Canadian Director on the International Board.
He has been a member of the Oro-Medonte Planning Advisory Committee and is currently on the Steering Committee of AWARE Oro-Medonte and hopes to bring a perspective from that background to the work of the Coalition as well.
Community supported, advocacy for a safe and secure future.
We rely on support from people like you.
Governments have failed to act to protect our communities and the futures of our children and grandchildren. They continue to treat our environment as if it’s incidental to life, rather than the foundation for it.
We need strong community organizations to fight for our future, now more than ever.
Please consider donating to support our work.
Irena Lawrenson, B.A.
After graduating with a B.A. in Geography/Anthropology, Irena embarked on a career with the Ontario Provincial Police.
Being among the first women hired as a police officer, Irena held various positions in several inaugural fields: computer services, domestic violence, employment equity and restorative justice.
In 2002, she was the lead coordinator for the annual Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police conference.
After 30 years of service, Irena retired in 2005 at the rank of Inspector.
In retirement, Irena has sat on/chaired several not-for-profit boards, including Barrie Out of the Cold, North Simcoe Victim Crisis Services, Couchiching Jubilee House (transitional housing for women in crisis) and Orillia’s Lightfoot Days.
Always an environmentalist, Irena recognizes the link between climate change and social justice and governance. As such, she has become politically active working on election campaigns at both the municipal and provincial levels.
Discouraged by the lack of her past municipal council’s concern re the environment, in 2022 Irena became one of the founding members of Engaging Residents of Oro-Medonte.
Linda Myles, B.A.
Linda Myles is a retired nurse with a Bachelor of Arts from York University in Health Studies. Linda worked in Hospital Administration and has always believed in volunteering and getting involved.
Her concern for the environment has been life long. She was one of the founders of the very first recycling project in the GTA back in the 1970s. The purpose of this project was to demonstrate to civic authorities that there was a strong public support in the recycling of household waste.
Linda and her family have always been involved in passive recreational activities. Her passions include hiking, canoeing, cross country skiing and most recently sailing a 34 foot sailboat she owns with her husband all around Georgian Bay.
She has held many volunteer positions in the past and was elected to the Board of Directors for the Horseshoe Valley Property Owners Association 6 years ago, the last 3 years as the President.
Ross Pityk, B.Sc., Ed.
Ross Pityk is an Elementary School Teacher, working for the Simcoe County District School Board in Innisfil. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1982 with a BSc.in Geography and Biology, followed by a post graduate degree in Education.
Ross has spent most of his life close to Lake Simcoe, and has been actively involved with initiatives that support the health of the Lake. For the last 17 years he has been a member of the Board of the Innisfil District Association (IDA), including five years as President. The mission of the IDA is to support the long-term sustainable development of the Town of Innisfil while protecting the health of Lake Simcoe and our natural environment. Ross has also worked with several other groups involved in protecting the Lake Simcoe water shed over the years, including RLSC.
Margaret Prophet, B.Ed
Margaret has a Bachelor of Education, specialized in Adult Education and a BA of Psychology from Brock University. She worked in the corporate education sector for 7 years at a Director level including as Director of Communications and Operations. Margaret decided to pursue her love of community and environment by volunteering for her local ratepayers association (Midhurst Ratepayers’ Association) while taking time to raise her family. This lead to her getting involved with complex land-use planning matters and municipal politics as the Communications Director for the association. Her work led to enlisting the support of Margaret Atwood, Maude Barlow and David Crombie in support of the MRA’s call to protect the internationally significant Minesing Wetlands from urban sprawl. In late 2015, Margaret and Sandy Agnew founded the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition with 15 like minded groups from across the region in support of an expanded Greenbelt.
Stephanie Wolfe worked for 15 years as an Epidemiologist with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit until spring 2022. Her interests lie in the social, political and ecological determinants of health and she is making a career move closer to the front lines of justice work.
Most recently, she has completed a short-term contract with Community Food Centres Canada.
Steph has spearheaded multiple grassroots campaigns and groups in New Tecumseth since moving there in 2011, including the David Suzuki’s Blue Dot campaign, New Tec Climate Action and Strongtown New Tec. In 2018, she successfully deputed for the Town of New Tecumseth to create an Environmental Advisory Committee, which she sits on.
Prior to moving to Alliston, Steph lived in Barrie where she volunteered with Make Poverty History, Out of the Cold and the Barrie Fair Trade Working Group. She loves to be active and outside with her kids and husband.
We are extremely proud of the amazing youth we’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from. Their commitment to building a better world inspires us.
Summer Youth Intern
Weiqi is 16 years old and is going into the 12th grade at Twin Lakes Secondary School in Orillia.
Weiqi has many different interests, 2 of them being tech and climate action, both of which he has managed to intersect by being the webmaster for Sustainable Orillia. Over the past 2 years, he has been actively involved in youth environmental initiatives through helping out with initiatives with the Sustainable Orillia Youth Council.
Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, he plans to help improve climate education during his tenure as an SCDSB student trustee. After high school, he plans to continue being involved in environmental work and plans to play the piano vigorously and to also pursue a career in STEM.
Kelly Gingrich, M.Ed.
Youth Engagement Lead (2021)
Kelly Gingrich (she/they) was SCGC’s first youth engagement lead, in 2021 when we first received funding for the position.
Kelly has a background in Sociology and recently received her Master of Education from OISE at the University of Toronto, where she focused on environmental and sustainability education. She is committed to supporting youth in climate action, community-based learning, and rediscovering the value of Place.
Currently, Kelly is an active member of Pollinate Barrie, working to create and encourage native-species pollinator gardens around the city; a Volunteer Outreach Coordinator with Urban Minds, a Toronto-based non-profit that does youth-engagement for city-planning and urban design projects; and, finally, Kelly is pursuing a second master’s degree, this time at York University’s Faulty of Environmental and Urban Change, where she hopes to learn about supporting youth to participate in and lead place-based community action projects, particularly around the intersections of climate-justice and decolonization, disrupting and retrofitting the suburbs, localization and degrowth of our economy, and planning and urban design.
Kelly is always in the process of becoming a community advocate of climate action, active transportation, complete communities and other local social justice issues!