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LETTER: Construction of Bradford bypass 'undervalues' the Holland Marsh

'A highway isn't leadership, nor success for our farmers, nor an opportunity for local economic development,' reader says
Highway
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BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at news@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to another letter to the editor titled 'LETTER: Building Bradford bypass will set community up for success, says MPP' published on June 17. 
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For more than 30 years, decision-makers have deferred to the advocacy of those who have supported Bradford's growth and maintained its character: our farmers.

As a Bradfordian, I walked Holland Street during Carrot Fest from childhood to my teens, celebrating my surface-level understanding of the marsh's impact on our community. It wasn't until my studies in geopolitics and early career in policy that I learned its country-wide significance. Allowing the construction of the Bradford bypass continues a trend of undervaluing the Holland Marsh.

As projected, the bypass will interrupt 16.2 kilometres and cross over 10 hectares of protected green space, several fragile ecosystems, and the wetland gateway that leads to Lake Simcoe, whose health is already in decline. The environmental assessment is informed by outdated details that didn't consider air pollution, water quality, migratory patterns, or our so-called multilateral commitment to a sustainable 2030.

Thankfully, dozens of better-suited advocates educate on the lack of protection afforded to the region's biological integrity. Please consider the advice of local groups like Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. They continue to make complex environmental equations digestible to community members over the window-dressing of an MPP with a minister of transportation's agenda. Thanks to their efforts, I leave my grave concern for the environment in their hands to take space erring caution of Bradford's diminishing ability to be a sustainable city in the future.

Over the course of my lifetime, Bradford's core has tripled. The cultural chain-link of families relocating with one another is a factor, affordability is certainly a factor, but our town's proximity to the highway, and therefore the city (of Toronto), is paramount.

I welcome our expansion; there's no NIMBYism in my tone, I enjoyed being raised in Bradford, and I love returning home. But with each visit, I'm reminded Bradford is no longer the little town it once was; it's another peri-urban hub with little strategic oversight. There is an impetus on our leaders to commit to strategic planning, scan world-class cities and operationalize Bradford as an innovative and sustainable centre as we inevitably grow beyond the bounds of a township.

To put it simply, four lanes running between Yonge and Bathurst will cost $800 billion to appease the industry representatives who are campaign supporters, not locals. Picture a Bradford where money is carved for environmental protection and agricultural research that attracts grants, scholars, farmers, and conservationists alike. A slice of that money would support workers and stimulate economic revenue that would stay within our community without travelling to the next highway.

Picture our town with an actual transit system instead of the loose chain link connecting the sixth line to the four corners and Barrie to Toronto (three hours and three transfers later). Investing in Bradford's bus and train system would also create jobs, reduce emissions and encourage movement and spending. While we are at it, imagine an accessible Bradford to support persons with disabilities and our vertically aging population?

Picture a town with funds to diversify its revenue as climate change degradation worsens through floods and fires. As its name implies, the bypass will redirect traffic, so I'd be interested to see the impact analysis that predicts a stimulus for our downtown businesses. Our downtown businesses have been advocating for increased funding and support for decades as big box businesses infiltrate communities' drifting closer to the highway. 

Between the cultivation and the inherent generational passing of farmlands, it is hard to imagine farmers would exchange 32 minutes of commute time for the fertility of their future crop. We can have green infrastructure, economic development, and sustainable growth without costing our town its carbon footprint and character.

A highway isn't leadership, nor success for our farmers, nor an opportunity for local economic development. Bradford can be effervescent both agriculturally and as an innovative city, but only if we hold our leaders to a higher standard, regardless of their political affiliation or Ministerial powers. The community - legacy families and newcomers alike - and the environment deserve to reap what our predecessors sewed. 

Allie Cotter
Toronto

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