Agricultural lands at Rouge National Urban Park © Parks Canada. Scott Munn
Canada’s first national urban park one step closer to becoming reality
March 31, 2015 Toronto, Ontario Parks Canada
The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today announced the official transfer of 4,722 acres (19.1 km2) of Transport Canada lands to Parks Canada – the very first lands that will make up Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
These newly-transferred lands, located in the north end of the future park west of the York-Durham line, are primarily Class 1 farmland – the rarest, most fertile and most endangered farmland in the country. Promoting a vibrant farming community is one of the primary reasons for establishing the national urban park, along with protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the Rouge and connecting Canadians with their nationally protected heritage areas. Under Parks Canada’s care, these lands will be protected forever and will receive the strongest ever protections in their history.
This is the first land transfer as a result of the agreements Parks Canada has signed with various landowners for the creation of Rouge National Urban Park. Additional legally binding land transfer agreements are in place with the Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority, the Province of Ontario; the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering, and the Regional Municipalities of York and Durham.
Rouge National Urban Park is envisioned to be a place where nature, agriculture and cultural heritage can all be protected and experienced by Canadians. In collaboration with local farmers and conservation groups, Parks Canada will immediately begin restoring these lands to enhance the health of the park’s ecosystems, control invasive species and help recover endangered species. Parks Canada will also begin building trails to connect these lands to the rest of the Rouge trail system.
Situated in close proximity to 20 percent of Canada’s population, Rouge National Urban Park supports Canada’s National Conservation Plan by providing unprecedented opportunities for a broad diversity of Canadians to learn about and connect with the park’s natural, cultural and agricultural heritage, and serves as a gateway for discovering Canada’s incredible network of protected areas.
The Government of Canada has made a significant financial commitment for the establishment of Rouge National Urban Park in providing $143.7 million of funding over 10 years and $7.6 million per year thereafter for its continuing protection and operation. The conservation and restoration activities planned for Rouge National Urban Park will place a renewed focus on achievable actions that maintain and restore the health of ecosystems.
Parks Canada will work together with farmers in the park to support the preservation of agricultural lands in the park, celebrate the 200 years of agricultural heritage of the region and encourage sustainable farming practices.
The land transfer from Transport Canada will protect large tracts of Class 1 farmland in Rouge National Urban Park. Protection of these lands is vital: Class 1 farmland accounts for one percent of all farmland in Canada. The transfer will be in effect on April 1st, 2015.
The proposed Rouge National Urban Park Act gives Parks Canada the legislative framework it needs to ensure the strongest ever protections for the Rouge Valley’s ecosystems, wildlife, flora, fossils, artifacts, and other natural and cultural resources, and promotes the park’s vibrant farming community.
The level of protection of the lands in Rouge National Urban Park will be stronger than the current patchwork of protection available by the Ontario Government on provincial lands.
Rouge National Urban Park is good for the people of Ontario. It means that the area’s environment and cultural heritage are protected, that local food and farming are celebrated, that jobs are created, and more importantly, that this special place, will be preserved for the benefit of current and future generations.