Conservation Areas

What is the difference between Conservation areas and Parks?

Conservation areas protect forests, wetlands, plant life and wildlife, and improve the overall health of our watersheds, including the quality and supply of our water resources such as recharge areas. It's important to stay on the trail and not pick any plants or trees.

Parks are large public green areas in a town/city, used for recreation.

Can I bike at Quinte Conservation Areas?
Currently, passive biking is permitted on QC trails unless otherwise stated. Passive Biking is recognized by Quinte Conservation as the activity in which individuals on bicycles traverse designated trails outlined by the Authority at a leisurely pace that would not pose a danger to trail users or wildlife, and would have minimal environmental impact.
Are dogs allowed at conservation areas?
Yes. Dogs are welcomed at Conservation Areas, but for the safety of visitors and your pet, they must be kept on a leash at all times.
Why are some Conservation Areas closed during winter and early spring?
Select Quinte Conservation Areas are closed for parking from December (date varies with first large snow fall) to March/April (date varies with frost/spring conditions). Winter conditions present safety concerns, and road repairs during this period are beyond Quinte Conservation's capacity. Spring conditions cannot support vehicle traffic. Visitors can still access this area by walking in.

Effected areas include Beaver Meadow, Little Bluff and Sheffield. 

When are your Conservation Areas open?
Quinte Conservation Areas are open from 6 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week.
How do I plan my event at a Quinte Conservation Area?
Quinte Conservation's Areas may be used for your public or private event, or group activity. Please visit our webpage for more information.
Do my tax dollars cover maintenance costs and parking fees?
No. Quinte Conservation pays property tax on 30,000+ acres of land including public conservation areas.

Unlike other public outdoor spaces, our conservation areas are not strongly supported through public tax dollars. The majority of our municipal levy is allocated to our mandated programs like flood forecasting.


What are your office hours?
Our office is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Thursday and until 4 pm on Friday.
Is Quinte Conservation publicly funded?
We have three main sources of revenue:
  1. Municipal levy

  2. Self-generated funds

  3. Government grants

What do I do if I see an animal in distress?
Quinte Conservation does not regulate the following categories: wildlife, hunting, invasive species, species at risk.  You can find resource links and phone numbers to the appropriate agency at


Which properties are available for hunting?
How do I join the Lease program?
  •  The opportunity to lease a property for hunting is given directly to an adjacent land owner. 
  • Alternatively, if you are interested in adding your name to a waiting list, please contact with your contact information. 
Who do I call if I see a potential hunting violation?
Report hunting violations to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry TIPS Hotline at 1-877-847-7667.
Can I hunt at Depot Lakes?
  •  The boat launches at Third and Fourth Depot Lakes are open to the public for fishing and waterfowl hunting via watercraft. The lands surrounding these lakes are part of the Quinte Conservation hunting lease program. 
  • Second Depot Lakes is a conservation area, therefore no water fowl hunting is allowed.

Learn and Get Involved

Does Quinte Conservation sell rain barrels?
We don't offer rain barrels at this time. Please visit for a sale in your municipality.
How do I become a volunteer for Quinte Conservation?
We have a variety of volunteer opportunities. It's best that you visit our volunteer webpage. for next steps. You are also welcome to email


How do I use my access card?
Tap the grey pad located on the gate machine with your access card. The access card pad is located in the bottom left corner of the Parking Boxx system.

If you have a valid access card, the gate's arm will lift. You will be notified on the screen if your pass has expired.  

If you need assistance using the gate, please press the red call button located at the bottom.

Can I park my vehicle at a Conservation Area overnight?
Overnight parking is not permitted at Quinte Conservation Areas.
How does Quinte Conservation use the revenue from paid parking?
The revenue from the electronic gates guarantees a maintenance budget to support the preservation and improvement of various essential amenities at Quinte Conservation Areas. These amenities include boardwalks, bridges, benches, educational signage and safety features.

Parking fees are essential for Quinte Conservation to keep trails open, safe and accessible for public use. 
How long has parking been in place?
Paid parking at Quinte Conservation Areas has been in place since September 1, 2018.
Do my tax dollars cover maintenance costs and parking fees?
No. Quinte Conservation pays property tax on 30,000+ acres of land including public conservation areas.

Unlike other public outdoor spaces, our conservation areas are not strongly supported through public tax dollars. The majority of our municipal levy is allocated to our mandated programs like flood forecasting.
What does the 'do not' sign on the electronic parking gate mean?
The 'do not' sign located on the parking gate serves as a precautionary measure, advising pedestrians and cyclists to avoid approaching the gate to prevent any potential harm from the moving bar. It's important to note that the parking gate is intended solely for motor vehicles.

Exploring on foot or by bike are just a couple of the diverse activities that visitors can partake in at Quinte Conservation Areas.
When does my Annual Parking Pass expire?
Your Annual Parking Pass expires 365 days from day of activation. For example: If you activate your Annual Pass on July 31, 2023, your pass will expire on July 31, 2024.
What conservation areas can I access with my Annual Parking Pass? 
You can access all of the conservation areas within the Quinte Conservation watershed. 
Why electronic gates?
Gate systems helps us manage visitor numbers and mitigate the reoccurring issues of vandalism, illegal dumping and loitering, which will help to reduce the demand of our already-limited staff. The electronic parking gates support Quinte Conservation efforts in keeping trails open and safe for public use.

Permits & Planning

What is the difference between the permit and planning programs?
Through the Conservation Authorities Act Quinte Conservation is responsible for regulating development around hazardous lands and environmental features. A permit is required for development proposed within our Regulated Area. Permit applications are applied for directly through our office and Quinte Conservation staff make the decision on individual applications. 

Further details on our role in permit review can be found in the “Permit” section below. 

Applications made under the Planning Act such as a severance or a minor variance are initiated through an individual municipality and Quinte Conservation is circulated on those files to provide technical and planning advice. We have a delegated responsibility from the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to represent provincial interests where natural hazards are concerned and will also provide comments on natural heritage features such as wetlands. Quinte Conservation staff do not make a decision on a planning application; that responsibility lies with individual municipalities. 

In general, Planning Act approvals must be obtained prior to applying for a permit through our regulations program. 

Further details on our role in plan review can be found in the “Planning” section below.

Why are there separate fees for permit and planning application review on the same property?
Quinte Conservation has different responsibilities and review roles required under the Planning Act and the Conservation Authorities Act. Each process is handled individually and through separate administrative channels and staffing.
How do I find out if my property falls within Quinte Conservation's Regulated Area?
You can use our Property Regulation Map to determine if your property may be in an area that we regulate.

If you are unsure of which Conservation Authority's jurisdiction your property is in, you can find out by referencing this map on Conservation Ontario’s website. 


Why does Quinte Conservation review my planning application?
The Planning Act states that all Conservation Authorities are considered “public bodies” and must be given the opportunity to comment on applications and documents prescribed under it.

Additionally, all Conservation Authorities have been delegated responsibility from the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to represent the provincial interest on matters related to Natural Hazards.  Quinte Conservation will review all Planning Act applications circulated to us with regards to Section 3.1 (Natural Hazards) of the Provincial Policy Statement. We also give advice and technical input on source water protection and water quantity (e.g. stormwater management). 

Staff also give advice and technical input on water quantity (eg. stormwater management) and source water protection to ensure water resources are not adversely affected by proposed development.

How does Quinte Conservation find out about my planning application?
Each municipality within our watershed circulates planning applications to our office. Some municipalities will circulate all applications while others will only send those that are within our regulated area. Quite often Quinte Conservation staff will be involved in a pre-consultation meeting or conversation with the municipality or the applicant before an application is submitted for final review.
Does Quinte Conservation approve my planning application?
No. We provide input with regards to environmental features and other issues specified in our service agreements. The final approval of an application rests with the Municipality or the applicable planning approval agency.
What do I do if I need help?
Please Contact Us with any questions you have. We are able to answer most questions by phone or email.

If you would like to speak to a staff member in person or have them visit your property you can book an appointment or request a site visit.


Why is my property regulated by Quinte Conservation?
Under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act and O. Reg. 41/24, Quinte Conservation has a mandate to protect life, property, and the environment. Specific areas and features are regulated through this legislation and our office is responsible for ensuring that development is safe and does not create or exacerbate any hazards.
What features does Quinte Conservation regulate?
We regulate development activities around features such as watercourses, shorelines, and steep slopes that are prone to flooding and erosion hazards, as well as wetlands and other sensitive environmental areas that can be affected by ecological and hydrological impacts.
What is the difference between the regulated area and a setback?

The regulated area is the distance around an environmental feature where Quinte Conservation has jurisdiction and where you need a permit from our office. The regulated area varies from 30 to 45m depending on the feature. Being in the regulated area does not mean you cannot do work in the majority of cases, only that you need a permit from our office for that work.

The setback is a distance around an environmental feature where development activities are not permitted by our office except in specific circumstances. These setbacks vary from 15-30m depending on the feature and are to account for unforeseen impacts such as wave uprush or ice jamming and are also to provide a buffer around sensitive features such as wetlands. The setback is part of the regulated area, not in addition to it.  For example, if the regulated area around a wetland is 30m and the setback is 15m, the first 15m of the regulated area around the wetland is the setback, the remaining 15m is the rest of the regulated area.

What types of development activities are regulated by Quinte Conservation?
Development activities include (but are not limited to) the following:
  • Construction or demolition of buildings or other structures (e.g. house, garage, shed, deck, etc.)
  • Site alteration, placement of fill and/or removal of site grading. Fill can include gravel, rock, sand, soil, etc.
  • Installation and/or replacement of bridges, culverts and water control structures
  • Any shoreline alterations including boathouses, boat launches, erosion protection, etc.
  • Any realignment, channelization or dredging of a watercourse.
  • Any construction, importation/removal of fill, site grading, vegetation removal in a wetland.
What is a wetland?
For the purposes of our regulation, a wetland is a feature that meets the following criteria:
  1. is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water or has a water table close to or at its surface;
  2. directly contributes to the hydrological function of a watershed through connection with a surface watercourse;
  3. has hydric soils, the formation of which has been caused by the presence of abundant water; and,
  4. has vegetation dominated by hydrophytic plants or water tolerant plants, the dominance of which has been favoured by the presence of abundant water, but does not include periodically soaked or wet land that is used for agricultural purposed and no longer exhibits a wetland characteristic referred to in clause (3) or (4).
Can I protect my shoreline from further erosion? 
PLEASE NOTE: All shoreline protection works (i.e. new, replacements and/or repairs) require a permit from Quinte Conservation. Additional permits from other agencies may also be required.

Yes, with some conditions. If you have an existing retaining wall or other form of man-made protection, you can replace it or repair it on the same footprint. You cannot expand the footprint of existing protection measures to either take up more space on the lake/creek bed or raise the grade so that flood water is blocked from coming onto the property.

New vertical walls are not permitted, however if you have a natural shoreline that is eroding you are permitted to place rocks, boulders, or other material provided it is sized appropriately and is placed at a stable slope along the shoreline.  In general a 3:1 slope is considered stable.  It is important to remember that any new erosion protection measures cannot extend out onto the lake/creek bed.

Do I need a permit for a dock? 
You do not need a permit for a removable dock such as a floating dock.  You will need a permit for the anchor point (size restrictions may apply) of a cantilevered dock or any other permanent structure associated with a dock.  No part of any anchor point can be within the flood plain. Permanent docks are not permitted.
Do I need a permit for a deck?
Any unenclosed detached deck or patio that is 15 square-metres or less, is not placed within a watercourse/wetland and does not utilize any method of cantilever does not require a permit. If your deck is larger than 15 square-metres and/or is cantilevered, you will require a permit.
Do I need a permit for a well? 
You need a permit for a dug well.  Drilled wells do not require a permit. Wells cannot be located in the flood plain or a wetland.
Do I need a permit to cut down trees? 
You do not need a permit to cut down trees from our office provided the trees are not located in a wetland feature.  Wetlands cannot be interfered with, and this includes vegetation removal.  We recommend that trees along a shoreline be “limbed up” or cut back to the stump so that the root system can still provide some added erosion protection to your shoreline. Check with your local municipality to see if they have any tree-cutting by-laws before starting any work.
What happens if I don't get a permit before starting my project? 
Work that is completed without a permit is a violation of our regulations. Quinte Conservation can pursue legal action and charge the parties involved which will result in court action. If convicted, the court has several options for penalties that include jail time, fines, and/or the restoration of the site to its original condition. This may involve removal of structures and fill at the expense of the parties involved. Depending on the type of work completed, you may also be subject to charges from other agencies.
Can I appeal a decision by Quinte Conservation to deny my permit application? 
Please review O. Reg. 41/24 and the Conservation Authorities Act for appeal procedures.
Will I need other approvals in addition to Quinte Conservation? 
Possibly. A permit from Quinte Conservation does not override any other permit requirements from any other agencies, whether federal, provincial or municipal. You should contact your local municipality to discuss building permits and any other approvals that are required.

If you are doing work in or around the water, you should also contact the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) regarding their permit requirements.

If you are doing work in a Source Water Protection Area you should inquire about any restrictions or risk management requirements.

You can apply for a permit from our office and a building permit from the municipality concurrently but a permit from our office must be obtained before you receive a building permit. The Conservation Authorities Act is considered “applicable law” under the Building Code and as such must be taken into consideration first, before a building permit is issued.

What do I do if I need help?
Please Contact Us with any questions you have. We are able to answer most questions by phone or email.

If you would like to speak to a staff member in person or have them visit your property you can book an appointment or request a site visit.

Source Water Protection

What is source water?

Source water is untreated water taken from rivers, lakes or underground aquifers for drinking (Another term for untreated water is 'raw' water.)

There are two types of source water: surface water and groundwater. Surface water is water on the Earth's surface such as lakes, rivers and streams. It is drawn into a drinking water system through a pipe, known as the intake pipe. Groundwater is the water beneath the Earth's surface found in the cracks and spaces between soil, sand and rock particles. It is drawn into a drinking water system through a well. Surface water and groundwater are interconnected and water flows from one to the other.

What is source water protection?

Source water protection is protecting our drinking water sources from overuse and contamination. This helps to protect public health. In Ontario, source water protection is carried out under the Clean Water Act, 2006. The goal of source water protection is to ensure we have enough clean drinking water for generations to come.

Source water protection is considered the "first barrier" of a multi-barrier approach to providing safe drinking water. Other barriers are effective water treatment, proper distribution and adequate water testing.

Source water protection also protects against overuse by determining how much water is available compared to how much is needed.

Why does Ontario need the clean water act and how will it protect Ontario’s drinking water?

Everyone has a right to clean water and need clean drinking water to survive. Unfortunately, history has shown us that if a community is not careful, contaminants can enter a drinking water supply, or the supply can be exhausted. Every community has a responsibility to make sure its children and their children are left with enough clean drinking water to survive. We must be able to trust our water sources.

The Clean Water Act helps to reduce risks to municipal drinking water sources by addressing threats to drinking water quality and quantity. It establishes a locally driven, science-based, multi-stakeholder process to protect drinking water sources and promotes the notion of stewardship – the shared responsibility of all stakeholders to protect the integrity of local sources of public drinking water.

Why protect source water?

Protecting water sources safeguards public health and our future water needs.

Other good reasons to protect water sources:

  • It is important to prevent source water from becoming contaminated because water testing and treatment procedures are not perfect.
  • Source water protection is cost effective. It is more cost effective to keep our water clean and protected rather than to have to pay to clean it up.
  • Not all forms of contamination can be removed or treated (i.e. many chemical compounds).
  • Many people in Ontario, especially in rural areas, are not connected to municipal water. These people supply their own drinking water from a private well or surface water intake. For these people, protecting source water from contamination may be the only barrier they have against contaminated drinking water.
  • Protected, abundant sources of water will allow our communities to plan properly for future development.
  • Protecting our water sources also means we will have clean abundant water for other uses like recreation
How can we protect source water?

Everyone can help protect water at its source. Ways to protect drinking water range from individual actions, such as taking household hazardous wastes to proper disposal sites, to collective efforts by everyone working together to implement and follow the policies of the watershed-based source protection plans.

Developing a source protection plan for a watershed is an excellent way to identify steps that should be taken to protect local sources of drinking water. Source protection plans help municipalities and people within a watershed protect their local sources of drinking water. These plans aim to keep source water clean and encourage wise water use.

Source protection plans are based on sound science and are developed by a local Source Protection Committee with input from municipalities, stakeholders and the public.

Why are conservation authorities involved?

For over 50 years, Conservation Authorities have been protecting, restoring and managing Ontario's water and land resources on a watershed basis.

A watershed is the area of land that drains into a common river or stream. Water in its natural state (solid, liquid, gas, etc.) is vulnerable to contamination or depletion, depending on activities within its watershed.

Quinte Conservation and other Conservation Authorities have the technical scientific, communications and administrative expertise required for source protection planning. The Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks recognized this expertise and are funding Conservation Authorities to coordinate source water protection at the watershed level. Quinte Conservation supports the work of the local Source Protection Committee who worked with municipalities and stakeholders to develop the sciencebased source protection plan. Quinte Conservation now helps to facilitate the implementation of the approved Quinte Region Source Protection Plan.

What are potential threats to source water?
Over the past few decades, people have come to realize that their actions and how they use their land and water can contaminate the environment. A number of these contaminants can get into surface and groundwater that people use for drinking water.

Contaminants may include:

  • industrial emissions, spills and leaks
  • municipal sewage treatment discharges
  • landfill leachate
  • wastes from mining sites
  • on-site septic systems
  • leaking storage tanks (i.e. fuel oil and gas)
  • urban runoff containing sediment, nutrients, bacteria, oil, metals, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, road salts, pet droppings and litter
  • agricultural runoff containing oil, grease, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, nutrients and manure
  • bacteria and petroleum products from recreational boating

The Province of Ontario has identified 22 drinking water threats.

It is far more expensive to treat contaminated source water than it is to protect it from contamination. It costs much more to remediate contaminated groundwater than to protect it from contamination. We need to use water wisely to ensure that we have enough clean water now and in the future.

What is a surface water intake protection zone?
A surface water intake is the pipe through which surface water (water from lakes and rivers) is drawn into a water treatment system for drinking water. The surface water intake protection zone is the area of land and water surrounding the intake pipes that may be vulnerable to contamination. The Intake Protection Zones factsheet further explains how and why intake protection zones are created.
What is a wellhead protection area?
A wellhead protection area is the area above and below ground, surrounding a municipal well that supplies a municipal drinking water system. It is the area through which contaminants may move toward and reach the water well. The Wellhead Protection Areas factsheet further explains how and why wellhead protection areas are created.
What is the difference between the water table and an aquifer?
The water table is the top of the aquifer. An aquifer is an underground source of water. It is an underground area saturated with water. A common misconception is that our underground sources of water are underground lakes and rivers. In actuality, the water in an aquifer fills the spaces between the soil particles and rocks.
What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability refers to how easily a well (or aquifer) or surface water intake can become polluted with a dangerous material. Researchers studied each municipal well and intake to determine how vulnerable they are. There are eleven systems in the Quinte Region: seven municipal surface water intakes and four municipal wells. 
What is a vulnerable aquifer?
A vulnerable aquifer is an underground source of water that may be contaminated or is easily susceptible to contamination from human and/or natural sources. An aquifer is considered highly vulnerable based on a number of factors, including how deep the aquifer is underground, what sort of soil or rock is covering it and the features of the soil or rock surrounding it. A vulnerable aquifer is often not protected by overlying layers of soil serving to slow the rate of water movement from the ground surface. Soil or rock that has many large cracks and spaces, and is looser rather than more compact, allows for water to quickly flow into an aquifer. The faster water flows through the ground to an aquifer, the more vulnerable it is to contamination.
How is surface water vulnerability measured?
To determine the vulnerability score for surface water intakes, researchers study how water moves in the area around each intake. For a river intake, they look at how quickly water gets to the intake during high and low flows. For a lake intake they study how the movement of water is affected by currents and winds. For both types of intakes they identify streams, municipal storm sewers and rural drains that enter near the river or lake near the intake.

Intake protection zones (IPZs) are then drawn around the intakes and assigned vulnerability scores on a 10 point scale with 10 being the most vulnerable.

The intake protection zones are established for up to three contributing areas divided into times of travel zones.

  • IPZ 1 is the area immediately upstream or adjacent to the intake (no more than 1 km away)
  • IPZ 2 is the contributing area where contamination could reach the intake before an operator could respond (this is a minimum of 2 hours)
  • IPZ 3 is the larger contributing area around the intake
How is groundwater vulnerability determined?
To determine the vulnerability scores for the area surrounding a well, researchers have to answer two questions:
  • How quickly does water move horizontally through the aquifer to the well?
  • How quickly does water move vertically from the surface of the ground down to the aquifer? This is called the intrinsic vulnerability.

This information is used to draw a wellhead protection area or WHPA around each well. WHPAs are divided into rings called Time of Travel Zones. The innermost zone is a 100 metre circle. The other zones are set at times of travel of 2 years, 5 years and 25 years. Times of travel refer to how long it may take a contaminant to reach to well.

Researchers look at information like: the geology and porosity of the underlying rock and; well records that show the direction of groundwater flow to help them answer the questions.

The answers to the two questions are combined to come up with a vulnerability score on a 10 point scale for all the land within the WHPA for each well.

What is a groundwater recharge area?
A groundwater recharge area is an area where precipitation seeps into the ground and drains to the water table and underlying aquifers. Typically, these are isolated areas of significant deposits of sand and gravel, found throughout the Quinte Region, where high volumes of water can move easily into the ground thereby recharging the groundwater.
Does the clean water act pose a threat to the privacy rights of rural property owners?
Under the Clean Water Act, municipalities, conservation authorities, landowners, industry, businesses, farmers, community groups and the public have collaborated to develop a fair, effective plan to address local risks to drinking water.

Conservation Authorities already collect data, carry out studies, map resources and monitor the state of our watersheds daily. Conservation Authorities have a long history of working with landowners, farmers and municipalities in a mutually acceptable and respectful way and that is not going to change. We all need to work together to protect our water.

Conservation Authorities already have the authority to enter onto private property under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act. Conservation Authority staff members seek permission of property owners prior to entering onto private property to monitor, assess, map, etc. Power of entry on private property is used only when absolutely needed.

Watershed Management 

Who do I contact about algae?

Quinte Conservation does not regulate algae. The best course of action is to contact Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ Spills Action Centre. Visit their webpage to report online or call 1-866-663-8477.