Expansion of Rouge National Urban Park

The Government of Canada announced in the 2011 Speech from the Throne its commitment to work towards the creation of a national urban park in the Rouge Valley, managed by Parks Canada. In the subsequent Budget 2012 announcement, the Government of Canada committed to preserving Canada’s natural beauty and taking action on the creation of Canada’s first national urban park in the Rouge Valley in Ontario. Accordingly, $143.7 million was provided over 10 years for park development and interim operations, and $7.6 million per year thereafter for its continuing operations.

On April 1, 2015, the Government of Canada announced the official transfer of 19.1 km2 of Transport Canada lands to Parks Canada – the very first lands to make up Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). On July 11, 2015, the Government of Canada announced it was committing 21 km2 of new lands to Rouge National Urban Park, increasing the boundaries of Canada’s first national urban park by over 36 per cent. The additional lands would expand and protect the network of natural and agricultural lands along the Rouge Valley from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. In order to manage and operate this expansion of the park, the Government of Canada has allocated $26.7 million over 7 years and $3 million thereafter.  This funding will support programming and visitor facilities in Rouge National Urban Park to encompass the additional lands; provide resources to support the 177 leases on these lands; allow for the protection of the natural, cultural and agricultural resources, consistent with the Rouge National Urban Park Act. 

The expanded Rouge National Urban Park’s landscape mosaic as well as the stories associated with its wide range of past and present human uses will continue to be conducive to a wide array of unique opportunities for visitors and residents alike to experience. The park will continue to offer the opportunity for meaningful, accessible, learning experiences, without entry fees, and these will reflect the national standards of services and products provided by Parks Canada and its partners. Parks Canada’s ability to connect with Canada’s increasingly diverse urban population represents an unparalleled opportunity to reach 20% of the Canadian population located in and near the Greater Toronto Area.  

A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) was conducted for the establishment of Rouge National Urban Park pursuant to the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010), wherein all policy plan and program proposals of federal departments and agencies will consider, when appropriate, the potential environmental effects associated with their implementation.  This SEA has also taken into consideration the goals and targets of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, specifically Theme 3 – Protecting Nature; and Goal 6: Ecosystem/Habitat Conservation and Protection.  The purpose of an SEA is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans and program proposals to support environmentally sound decision-making.

The greatest environmental benefit of the park expansion will be achieved through Parks Canada’s commitment to maintain and restore the natural resources and natural processes of the park. The addition of these lands will play an important role in strengthening the ecological connection between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Additional benefits will include opportunities for improved visitor access and facilities, over the long-term, as well as improved ability to showcase the unique natural and cultural character of the place.  Access to opportunities, such as wildlife viewing is likely to improve, as programs and communications materials are developed to highlight the natural, cultural and agricultural heritage of the area.   In turn, this will help achieve Parks Canada’s goals of increasing awareness and relevance of our protected areas amongst urban audiences.  Although visitation may increase, and could result in conflicts, it is anticipated that increased and more directed visitation will be beneficial.  An increased number of visitors will lead to increased opportunities for educational experiences, as well as a sense of stewardship and awareness.  Future development proposals will be reviewed and permitted subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, Species at Risk Act and Parks Canada’s Cultural Resource Management Policy. 

The establishment of Rouge National Urban Park will lead to important positive environmental effects. No important negative environmental effects are anticipated.