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What's going on with the Rouge Park expansion?

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / May 23, 2014

Rouge Park TorontoRouge National Urban Park will be the first of its kind in Canada, and it will provide a much-needed green reprieve for Torontonians. But the project is slated to take up to a decade to be fully developed and open to the public, and right now, the process is essentially drowning in a pool of government bureaucracy.

Pam Veinotte, field unit superintendent for Rouge National Urban Park with Parks Canada, says there's lots to be done behind the scenes amongst government before the park can be open to the public, even though much of the intended park land is already green space, and it would appear to be a relatively straightforward process.

"[We have to conduct] all the land surveys, land titles, and take a look at whether pieces or parcels of land need an environmental assessment. Every jurisdiction has its own process..."

That work is well underway, she says, but there's no estimate as to when the park will be open for frolicking.

"All I can say is that we are working as quickly as we can, and all jurisdictions are working as they can," Veinotte says.

Right now, the most pressing step is to sign over the lands in the study area to Parks Canada. The patch of green space for park designation, in the northernmost part of the city, is in joint custody of Toronto, Pickering, and Markham. They, alongside York Region, Durham Region and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, need to sign over either land or municipal services to the parklands, and much of the work that needs to be done to create the national park cannot happen until that's done. Municipalities are in the process of signing over their lands now. Veinotte says it's impossible to provide an estimate even of when this first step will be complete.

Rouge Park already exists in Toronto, but this process will make the park much larger, as well as give it an official designation as protected green space for the millions of us who live around it. Currently, it's about 41 km sq., and the parklands begin just above Steeles Ave., and run down to Lake Ontario, culminating in Rouge Beach.

The study area, on the other hand, would stretch the park to about 58 sq. km., extending to 19th Ave., almost up to Stouffville and the lower portion of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Rouge ParkThough the park seems like it will take forever to open, there are some really wonderful aspects to the plan that will undoubtedly enhance Torontonians' quality of life. To supplement the camping already available at the park, Veinotte says oTENTiks might be installed (which are a cross between a tent and a cabin, come with a firepit, and are furnished, in case you don't like sleeping on rocks/dirt). At the present time, the park is without washrooms, as well, so those will be installed, too.

And alongside becoming the first national park to be almost entirely surrounded by urban life, Rouge Park will also be the first Canadian national park to include agriculture in its design. The details of that are still in the process of being planned, but some groups are already pushing to ensure that agricultural uses make up a good chunk of the park.Reportedly, about 60 per cent of the parklands will be devoted to agriculture, which means they'll be closed off to the public. And according to the Star, there will be a total of about 75 farms operating within the park, all under private farmers.

All of the commonly expected park elements will also be available, meaning there's a host of adventuretime possibilities: there will be trails, beaches, various recreational activities, and youth programs.

The lands are also home to a number of at-risk species, rare Canadian forests, and evidence of lives lived by Indigenous peoples over 10,000 years ago. That part of our cultural heritage will be honoured in a number of ways, Veinotte says.

Rouge Park, as it is now, was established in the mid '90s by the provincial government as a response to public concerns about protection of the river valley. The federal government committed to designating it Rouge National Urban Park in 2011, after years of lobbying by environmental groups. And in May 2010, the feds committed $143.7-million to be used to establish the park over the next 10 years. Following that, $7.5-million per year has been allotted to the ongoing operations of the park.

Lead photo by Kaeko in the blogTO Flickr pool

Discussion

13 Comments

Terry / May 23, 2014 at 11:12 am
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wtf? why dedicate land to PRIVATE farms? this is a national park
jerrice / May 23, 2014 at 11:24 am
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Why are they dedicating so much to farming? Why aren't they naturalizing the area back into native grasslands/forests, turn it into a real nature park.
Todd Toronto / May 23, 2014 at 11:31 am
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Well, the feds are doing a great job with Downsview Park so, why not?
Khaleesi Burger / May 23, 2014 at 12:56 pm
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This article gives a bit of an impression that the park is currently not available for enjoyment. Right now, for free, you can access the park near the zoo or down further at the campground site. Lots of wonderful trails to go on a hike. There are plenty of things to do and see already, and yet the trails are under-used. Once they complete all the changes, no doubt there will be hefty user and parking fees. Enjoy it right now while you can do it freely!
RED DOE / May 23, 2014 at 02:33 pm
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JE SUIS ROUGE!!
Voyageur replying to a comment from RED DOE / May 23, 2014 at 02:46 pm
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...ET BLANC!
tommy / May 23, 2014 at 02:51 pm
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I don't understand what designating this space a "National Park" will do for the area other than give politicians a photo op. Every amenity noted in this article already exists - farming and wash-rooms (porta-potties) included. Why not just leave it as is, and save the $143.7 million dollars?!
Rob / May 23, 2014 at 03:07 pm
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Shouldn't the park's Scarborough location be mentioned at least once?

The cynic in me expects that to happen only when talking about crime.
me / May 23, 2014 at 03:35 pm
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oTENTiks!!! yes!
but yea, I've been to the park and covered the sheppard-lake ontario stretch and it was definitely "open to the public.
CT / May 23, 2014 at 06:35 pm
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The park is already a gem and definitely open to the public. I live very close by and this past weekend had a family picnic in the park. And yes, the park is located on the Pickering/Scarborough/Markham borders. Parkland - yes! Campground - yes! Farming - please, NOOOO!!!
Aut dah dah gar Low Ah quicks / May 23, 2014 at 10:08 pm
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The real truth here is that for the last twenty years the Rouge Park Alliance and the TRCA and the rest of the so called Ministries are the very ones who have been selling out our Mohawk Homelands known as the Rouge Park. Just look at what was done on Stains Road with the destruction of over 40 Long Houses and thousands of Artifacts that were ripped from the ground and desecrated with no consultation what so ever. Look what they did to the Milroy Site that pre dates 1300 1350 as the first Mohawk Village Site ever found in Ontario, It was always included in the Rouge Park Management Plan protected forever but after a secret meeting with the then Minister it was pen to paper and it was removed from protection and all of a sudden it was now slated for development. After the Developer found out I was involved in its protection he backed out and then a secret deal was formulated and it was sold to the Catholic Cemetery Board for there new Christ for King Pathetic Catholic Cemetery. There was no consultation on this sell out back room deal so I launched a Private Prosecution against the Ontario Realty Corporation knows as the real estate arm of the Provincial Government. In 2003 the Provincial Government was found guilty on all 9 Counts and had never Consulted with anyone and had even perjured them selves in the Court Proceedings. So where the hell was the Rouge Park Alliance or the TRCA or any of the other Ministries who were so called mandated to protect this sacred place. What about the 500 bodies of my Ancestors who had been resting in there eternal sacred resting places in a registered burial ground that had been there for generations. They came in the night and ripped open the ossuary burial ground and one by one there remains were lifted out of our pit and they were all put through a wood chipping machine then taken in a dump truck and dumped on the side of the road on Stains Road in Scarborough. It became the largest homicide investigation in Ontario's history and then it was swept under the rug. I lived in a tee pee for 5 years on the Old Archie Little Farm Site protecting our village sites and our river and valley and I saved 24 acres while I watched the developers totally destroy the Mourning Side Heights echo system. Me and my families lives were threatened and my house was broken into and they stole over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of my Gammas Turquoise and Silver jewelry collection. My vehicles were damaged beyond repair and my Entertainment business staff were threatened and in the end we lost a CHILD. I have been harassed threatened betrayed and I have lost everything protecting this sacred place where I have been for over 50 years, And now they want to destroy this sacred place and make a National Park. My new novel coming soon will tell the true story, The Stained Road will blow the lid off the real truths that took place. There has been no real Clear honest Transparent Consultation regarding this sacred valley and River. This is the biggest sell out of the century, do not buy into there bullshit as that is what this is. I leave my words on this page for you all and it is nothing but the truth, I am still protecting this place I have nothing left to loose so I will keep up the battle to stop these bastards.
Ojibwe Elder Anna Marie General / May 23, 2014 at 10:34 pm
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Ontario: Idle No More. Protect our human and land rights. Confederacy of Nations/AFN: We demand a solution to this.
Robert / May 26, 2014 at 05:13 pm
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The current process is very closed for what is being referred to as a "Peoples Park". No real consultation or involvement by those people that spent millions of dollars and decades fighting to get the area protected, or even the general public or other NGO's. Also essentially nothing is being created. All that is changing are the managers...essentially. It is already all there and all the legally required protections are already available, just not enforced. There is a concern that this gateway park is not going to be focused on doing what is best for the parks rare and sensitive ecosystems, the reason the land was set aside in the first place. But to market other Parks to the public and increase tourism to the National Park system, which is in steady slow decline. The management plan now in development has not been released. Hopefully there will be an increased level of ecological protection as the new park gets established, as there should be more than enough money to do so, as we have seen the continual loss of biodiversity in the Valley, while at the same time there is a continued focus on increased use by people. The Marsh is one such example. Instead of focusing on creating habitat for the Black Terns that once lived in the marsh in the 1970's, management has focused on people, creating board walks, canoeing and fishing. These activities put at least two of the endangered species in the marsh at further risk of harm, technically many of these activities are illegal in endangered species habitat, but are allowed to continue with really no management. Lets keep our fingers crossed and hope for a positive outcome.

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