Rouge Park, a massive oasis some 47 square kilometres of natural land inside the Greater Toronto Area, is slowly being turned into Rouge National Urban Park.
According to Parks Canada’s latest announcement, public landholders will be combining their efforts to recommend park boundaries and subsequent land transfers.
Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government was proud of the “outstanding collaboration” that has led toward creating the new park.
Parks Canada will work with local and provincial authorities that currently own portions of the park to reach a land transfer agreement by the fall.
A First for Canada
National parks are nothing new; Canada has dozens of them. However, Rouge will become a combination of national, natural, and urban—Canada’s first national park located in the heart of an urban hub.
Over the next 10 years, the government will be committing $143.7 million to the project.
Pam Veinotte, current superintendent of Banff National Park, one of Canada’s most popular and celebrated national parks, has been appointed as Rouge’s first superintendent.
“It is fitting, and quite purposeful, to have this ‘Canadian first’ [urban national park] be led by the current Superintendent of Parks Canada’s first National Park,” said Minister Kent in a released statement.
The Parks Canada website provides a “Public Involvement” section for Rouge Park, where visitors can provide input or get dates for upcoming information sessions.
Revitalizing the City’s Natural Haven
Diana Smyth, Rouge’s trail coordinator, said the new status will be great for the park.
During a tour of Rouge, Smyth noted that some areas have suffered from neglect and overuse. However, one part of the Beare wetland is already under rehabilitation, thanks to the helpful hands of local school children who planted local vegetation in a fenced-off portion of the park.
The park was grown in parcels, with some parts added later than others. Some farmlands in the north end are still leased to local farmers.
Smyth said the earliest trails were added in 1998 and the process of turning Rouge Park into a protected area began in 1990.
People come to the park to fish, hike, and enjoy a natural respite moments away from the buzz of Toronto’s urban sprawl.
“You get immersed very quickly into this natural landscape even though there’s houses right there, and the biggest highway in Canada is right there,” said Smyth.
Bikes are not permitted on the park’s trails, though there are service roads and paved routes within the park that cyclists can enjoy.
A campground operated by the City of Toronto and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) gives visitors a place to spend the night, but camping elsewhere within the park is not permitted.
“This is a great place to try out camping. If you really, really don’t want to deal with a camp stove, there’s a McDonald’s close by,” said Smyth.
A variety of birds are there to welcome visitors, including the red-eyed vireo. Smyth said they provide a pleasant wakeup call to campers and hikers.
Visitors could get a trail experience comparable to what they’d normally have to travel hours to experience in Algonquin Provincial Park, she noted.
Guides will take visitors on walks every Wednesday morning and three walks daily on the weekend. Other activities include an annual spring/summer effort to collect data about frogs.
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