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The Recreation Policy governing the public use of the Simcoe County Forest was approved in 2006 to ensure the continued enjoyment of the Forest by all responsible users, to minimize environmental impacts and to reduce conflicts.
A review of the Recreation Policy is being undertaken to assess where it is working well and to identify what changes or modifications may be needed to better address public use issues and improve the experience of Forest users.
The review is examining current and emerging issues and opportunities while considering changes which may be needed to enhance Policy effectiveness. The outcome of the review may include recommendations for minor amendments, clarifications and possible other changes to better achieve Policy objectives.
At approximately 33,000 acres and growing, the Simcoe County Forest is the largest municipally-owned forest in Ontario and among the largest of its kind in Canada with over 150 properties ranging in size from 13 to over 3,500 acres. The County of Simcoe is one of the few municipalities in Ontario that continues to invest in additional lands to ensure that the substantial environmental, social and economic benefits continue into the future. Within the past decade, the County Forest has expanded by more than 3,700 acres. Our forests contain more than 450 km of trails used for various recreational pursuits. These trails are developed and maintained by non-profit groups through a high degree of volunteerism.
One of the primary roles of the Simcoe County Forest (SFC) is to provide for a range of passive recreational pursuits for County residents and tourist alike. Many studies have shown substantial benefits to the health and well-being of those who spend time in our natural environment; be it more active pursuits or simply enjoying nature. Distributed throughout the County, the many forest tracts provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy these benefits close to home.
The Recreation Policy applies to all members of the public entering or utilizing the SFC. There are a wide range of permitted and encouraged uses. All off-road motorized vehicle activity must be on trails designated through a Property Use Agreement. Other organized activities, both non-profit and commercial, also require Property Use Agreements. Property Use Agreements cover a range of activities from trail development and maintenance to individual events. Several partnerships with local groups have enhanced recreational opportunities by improving trails for a range of uses.
Assumptions which have governed the existing Policy and Forest Management Plan, and will continue to guide decision making include:
- The County Forest is considered to be a 'working forest' and is not parkland, preserve or for single-use.
- Recreational pursuits in the Forest are a privilege, not a right.
- Forest health, management and associated operations take precedence over recreational activities.
- The County Forest is owned by the Corporation of the County of Simcoe, is not crown land, and as such the County is ultimately responsible for management decisions.