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As part of Ontario's strategy to protect environmentally sensitive lands on the Oak Ridges Moraine and ensure permanent greenbelt protection, the province exchanged certain lands it owned in Central Pickering for privately owned lands in Richmond Hill and Uxbridge.

The Oak Ridges Moraine landowners and the provincial government reached a general agreement in November, 2001 to negotiate a land exchange. In November of 2003, the Ontario government improved the settlement by adding 47 acres to the future park, and by securing a $3.5 million contribution by the Richmond Hill landowners to the improvement and environmental enhancement of the lands that will be protected on the Moraine.

This land exchange settled outstanding land disputes before the Ontario Municipal Board affecting Moraine lands in Richmond Hill and Uxbridge. By agreeing to this innovative solution, the Province and the owners ensured the protection of a continuous east-west natural corridor across the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The North Pickering lands, along with some adjacent lands in the Town of Markham, were assembled by the province in the early 1970s. The original intent was to develop a community of some 200,000 people in conjunction with federal government’s plans for a new international airport immediately to the north of the provincially owned lands.

Since then, part of the provincial holdings has been preserved as part of the Rouge Park; part has been developed as the community of Cornell; and part is protected for agricultural use. A fourth part of the land holdings in Central Pickering, often referred to as Seaton, is identified as land for the City of Pickering's future urban growth in both the regional and local Official Plans, and the exchange involved lands in this area only.

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