On July 28, 2015, the Government of Canada announced a $15-million investment in the conservation of Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area – Canada’s first national urban park.

With this $15 million investment – and in collaboration with farmers, community groups and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority – Parks Canada will immediately begin conserving and

restoring land and resources under its care to enhance the health of the park’s ecosystems and the preservation of cultural landscapes and park agriculture.

The funds will be used to protect endangered species, restore native forests, wetlands and meadows, measure the park’s biodiversity through ecological monitoring, inventorying and protecting the Rouge’s archaeological and cultural resources, and controlling invasive species.

As part of this work, Parks Canada announced plans to immediately begin work on 15 ecosystem restoration projects in the park. Below is a brief description of all 15 projects.

Project 1 Fish Habitat Enhancement

Parks Canada will improve fish habitat in a headwater stream by restoring wetlands to normalize stream flows and filter agricultural runoff, and planting native shrubs and trees to cool stream water.

Project 2 Water Quality Enhancement

Parks Canada will enhance water quality and aquatic ecosystem health by creating a grassed waterway to prevent further erosion into a watercourse. The existing swale will be regraded and planted with perennial grasses in order to mitigate soil erosion and filter agricultural runoff.

Project 3 Swamp Restoration

Just downstream of Project 1, water from an existing swamp is currently draining into an agricultural drain. By installing a small berm and new water control structure, the swamp will retain water for a longer period of time, benefitting the wetland flora and fauna that depend upon it. As well, this work will improve farm drainage and mitigate erosion, resulting in water quality improvements downstream.

Project 4 Aquatic Connectivity Enhancement

A set of three undersized culverts in the headwaters of the Little Rouge River that currently block the movement of fish and other aquatic species will be replaced with one much larger culvert to allow for free flow of the stream and improved connectivity for aquatic species.

Project 5 Reducing Soil Erosion

A failing, undersized farm crossing culvert in the headwaters of the Little Rouge River will be replaced with a much longer and wider culvert to allow for the safe movement of modern farm equipment while reducing damage and erosion of the stream bank. This project will improve water quality and the connectivity of aquatic habitat, while improving function of the farm.

Project 6 Connecting and Improving Fish Habitat

An undersized farm crossing culvert in the headwaters of the Little Rouge River will be replaced with a much longer and wider culvert to allow for the safe movement of modern farm equipment while reducing damage and erosion of the stream bank. This project will improve water quality and the connectivity of aquatic habitat, while improving function of the farm.

Project 7 Native Shrub Planting

The banks of a relocated stream, which historically supported specialist cold water fish species, will be planted with native shrubs to improve natural cover and stream shading and create a vegetated buffer to protect the stream from run-off from the adjacent road. The plantings will help keep the water cool, improve water quality, increase habitat availability for wildlife and improve aesthetics. Ultimately, this project may help to bring important cool and cold water fish species back to the stream.

Project 8 Wetland Habitat Improvement

A headwater wetland that was formerly cleared and used for pasturing cattle will be restored through the planting of native trees and shrubs. The restoration of natural cover in this area will help improve water balance in the area and keep water cool as it flows downstream.

Project 9 Restoration of a Natural Stream Channel

As part of a multi-year project, Parks Canada will initiate survey work on a headwater stream of the Little Rouge that has been straightened and channelled to improve agricultural drainage. The intent of this project is to investigate the potential to restore a natural stream channel while at the same time mitigating agricultural drainage problems that currently exist along the reach of the stream.

Projects 10 and 11 Headwater Wetland Restoration

Parks Canada will restore two important headwater wetlands on the only cold water creek that currently exists in the park. By capturing tile drain runoff from adjacent fields, headwater wetlands will be restored in areas where they would have existed historically. Restoration work will improve creek base flow, filter out sediments and nutrients before they enter the creek, and improve fish habitat. Areas surrounding the new wetlands and creek will be planted with native trees and shrubs to provide shade for fish and help control erosion.

Project 12 Stream Buffer Planting

Planting of buffer strips will occur along Katabokokonk Creek, a cool water stream, in order to filter sediments and nutrients and improve water quality. In future years, native shrubs will be planted along these buffer strips to help cool the stream. This work will help to restore conditions suitable for the specialist cold water fish species that historically existed in this creek.

Project 13 Invasive Species Control

Invasive trees will be removed from an old hedgerow and former residential lot, and useable agricultural areas will then be restored in collaboration with the local farmer. This work will enable the restoration of the marginal agricultural field described in Project 15 below.

Project 14 Wetland Habitat Restoration

A wet, marginal agricultural area will be restored by planting native trees and shrubs. The restoration of natural cover in this area will help improve water balance in the area and keep water cool as it flows downstream.

Project 15 Forest Restoration

A marginal agricultural field will be restored to an upland forest by planting native trees and shrubs. This restoration work will help to increase natural cover and connectivity in the area, thereby contributing to watershed and ecosystem health.