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New funding announced for the Rouge National Urban Park!

Good news of the day: this morning, it was announced that over $140 million dollars is being committed by the federal government to the establishment and management of Canada’s first national urban park in the Rouge River Valley in the GTA. It’s been over a year since the government first announced its intentions to create a national urban park in the Rouge Valley, so it’s welcome news that they’re now taking the next step in implementing their plan to establish the park.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Rouge Park, allow me to familiarize you! The park is currently one of the largest urban parks in North America, spanning over 40 square kilometers of mixed-use land including agricultural, cultural, natural and recreational lands. It’s the patchwork quilt of the parks world, encompassing private land, public land, municipal and provincial infrastructure, and extending across three different municipal boundaries (the City of Toronto, and the towns of Markham and Pickering). It serves as an important wildlife corridor, connecting the Oak Ridges Moraine to Toronto’s largest wetland area, where the Rouge River empties into Lake Ontario, and is home to over 1,000 species of plants and animals, including 23 species at risk.

In short, it is an area worth protecting. For nearly two decades, it has been saved from the threat of urban development, thanks in large part to the grassroots campaign efforts of local citizens who didn’t want to see this urban wilderness area clearcut, bulldozed and turned into suburbia.

The park is currently managed by the Rouge Park Alliance, which includes representatives from the provincial, federal and municipal governments, along with a handful of other partners like the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and local citizen groups. The Alliance has been doing a fantastic job of taking care of the park, and is now looking to Parks Canada to put in place a new, stronger management framework.

This new national urban park, while technically in a different category than our existing national parks, provides city-dwellers the opportunity to connect with nature and live the Parks Canada experience without having to pack up the car for a week-long trip to get to the next nearest national park. It will enable millions of people living in the urban centres of the GTA to develop a deeper connection to natural spaces that they may not have had otherwise. Above all, the creation of this park will help safeguard and restore the Rouge Valley’s important ecological values for future generations, so that they may experience and enjoy the park the way we do today.

CPAWS will continue to participate in the ongoing consultations and workshops being led by Parks Canada that will ultimately determine the future of the park. We want to ensure that current conservation measures in the park are maintained and built upon, and that funds are allocated to the development and implementation of a strong science and monitoring program which will be fundamental in the effort to protect and restore the park’s ecosystem.

So, cue the applause! We’re very happy that the government has made this commitment, and we look forward to seeing how things unfold this year as plans for the park get finalized. With a little bit of luck, we may be seeing the park officially established by the end of the year – one can only hope!


Photos of Rouge Park courtesy of Parks Canada