What is the Rouge National Urban Park visitor, learning and community centre and why is it important?

The Rouge National Urban Park welcome centre will be the flagship visitor, learning and community hub for Rouge National Urban Park. Building this facility is a foundational piece of meeting many of the objectives of the Rouge National Urban Park Management Plan. Parks Canada envisions a learning and orientation centre that instills visitors with a sense of escape, a desire for discovery and the confidence to explore Rouge National Urban Park and Parks Canada spaces further.

This site will function as a place of learning and lively community hub where visitors can gather and learn about the park’s Indigenous, natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage, as well as about Parks Canada places across the country. The site will also feature visitor amenities and multi-purpose indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, and connects to several trails both within and outside of the park that provide opportunities to experience iconic viewscapes of the Rouge Valley.

What was announced on July 30, 2021?

Parks Canada is pleased to announce the launch of public engagement on conceptual designs for the Rouge National Urban Park’s flagship visitor, learning and community centre.

Three concepts are being presented for public input on various architectural, landscaping, and visitor experience elements. All concepts were developed in close collaboration with Indigenous partners from the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle (FNAC), key stakeholders including the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park and Waterfront Regeneration Trust, as well as local farmers.

The concepts are guided by a commitment to sustainable, accessible and inclusive design. The Rouge National Urban Park visitor, learning and community centre will be net-zero carbon, in alignment with the Greening Government Strategy commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It will exceed municipal, provincial and federal accessibility and inclusivity standards and guidelines wherever possible, and a Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) lens will be applied throughout the project design.

What work has been done so far?

Between February and June 2021, the design team engaged with key stakeholders, including the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, local farmers, the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, to solicit their input and ensure their stories shape the form and content of the concepts put forward for public comment.

In addition, various studies and assessments, including geotechnical, environmental impact, archaeology, and tourism market assessments have been completed to better understand the site and its visitors and identify opportunities and constraints for the project.

See the full timeline here.

Who is involved in the project?

The project team includes:

  • Parks Canada
  • Design consultants for architecture, landscape, engineering, visitor experience and public engagement
  • Key partners and stakeholders, including
    • Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle
    • Park farmers
    • Community leaders who helped protect the Rouge and ensure it became a national park, including the Friends of Rouge Urban National Park and the Waterfront Regeneration Trust
    • Design consultants. After a rigorous, competitive and open process, the chosen project consulting team includes:
      o Architecture and Landscape: Moriyama & Teshima Architects in partnership with Two Row Architect and Studio Ian Gray  
      o Visitor Experience: Cadabra and Daily tous les jours
      o Public Engagement: PROCESS
  • You! Your feedback is essential to the success of this project.
When will the visitor, learning and community centre open to the public?

The Rouge National Urban Park visitor, learning and community centre is scheduled to open to the public in summer 2025. While Parks Canada makes every effort to minimize disruptions, dates are tentative and construction schedules are subject to change.

When and how will the public have the opportunity to provide feedback on this project?
What are the goals of the public engagement?

Parks Canada is committed to a diverse and inclusive public engagement process. Input from public engagement will be used to shape the design of the Rouge National Urban Park Visitor, learning and community centre including both architectural and visitor experience components. The goals of the public engagement process are:

  • To obtain the best possible feedback from the community and members of the public including both current, and future visitors
  • To gather input from the public on aspects of the site plan and building.
  • Gather feedback on what visitors would like to do or experience at the site.
  • To continue to solidify and grow our relationships with the community and various organizations with interests in the Park.
  • To provide a platform for addressing and taking into consideration diverse perspectives and to ensure that these perspectives are considered
  • To demonstrate transparency and accountability throughout the project
  • To generation excitement and enthusiasm among current and future visitors!
What is the project’s timeline?

Estimated project timelines are outlined below. While Parks Canada makes every effort to minimize disruptions. Timelines may change and construction is weather dependent.

 

Project Phase Anticipated timeline
Concept development

Present three concepts for public feedback Present to autumn 2021
Design development

Develop one concept based on public feedback Winter 2021 to spring 2022
Final design and construction tender

Complete the design drawings and hire a construction contractor Summer 2022 to winter 2023
Construction begins

Spring 2023
Target opening

Summer 2025
How was the location of the visitor, learning and community centre chosen?

The site is a former Toronto Zoo overflow parking lot (Lot 4), located east of Meadowvale Road and south of Zoo Road. It was selected after an intensive study of many potential sites. An agreement was announced in summer 2019 wherein the Toronto Zoo generously agreed to transfer the land to Parks Canada.

Parks Canada has a rigorous development review and environmental impact assessment process that ensures all development proposals mitigate environmental impacts and protect the ecological integrity of the park.

What will visitors be able to do at the visitor, learning and community centre?

The site will feature a holistic site interpretation plan with immersive installations that invite visitors to engage with the stories of the Rouge and the layers of stewardship that have shaped it since time immemorial. Parks Canada is working with a talented experiential design team to craft a series of unique, transformative and surprising experiences that reflect the essence of the park.

Public engagement will help to inform and shape these visitor experiences.

Will there be any visitor fees associated with the visitor, learning and community centre?

No entrance fees will be charged to enter the facility. Parking, events and enhanced programming, facilitated in part or in full by external stakeholders, may have associated attendance fees.

Will the site be inaccessible during construction?

The site will be closed intermittently during construction. Closures and re-openings will be clearly communicated on-site, on the park website and through our social media channels. Safety is our top priority.

How many visitors are expected to visit the new visitor, learning and community centre?

As part of the work to create Rouge National Urban Park, Parks Canada has undertaken extensive studies on visitor use and needs, including determining that there was a baseline annual attendance of approximately 500,000 visitors in 2014/2015.

Parks Canada is working on improving its attendance modelling – including the use of trail counters and parking lot monitoring – in Rouge National Urban Park and will be able to provide a more accurate estimation of visitation numbers for the Rouge National Urban Park visitor, learning and community centre later in 2021.

What is happening to Pearse House?

The historic Pearse House is home to the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre, operated by the Rouge Valley Foundation. Pearse House is located outside of the project footprint and its scope of work. Parks Canada is committed to protecting this important resource and working with the Rouge Valley Foundation to mitigate any impacts construction may have on programming.

What is happening with the ZooShare biogas facility?

ZooShare is an innovative project that turns animal waste from the Toronto Zoo and inedible food waste into renewable power for the Ontario grid. A by-product of this process is fertilizer, which can help to grow local food.

Designs for the Rouge National Urban Park visitor, community and learning centre provide architectural and landscape design options that separate the two sites in innovative and aesthetically pleasing ways.

Parks Canada is committed to ensuring that the ZooShare biogas facility continues to contribute to climate change action and sustainable energy while ensuring exceptional visitor experience to visitors to Rouge National Urban Park.

How will Parks Canada protect the ecological integrity of the learning and community centre area, particularly wildlife, during construction?

Parks Canada has a rigorous development review and environmental assessment process that ensures all development proposals mitigate environmental impacts and protect the ecological integrity of the park.

Investing in new visitor infrastructure is necessary to manage the impacts of visitation. Thoughtful infrastructure projects protect ecological integrity while providing high-quality and meaningful experiences to visitors.

There is a natural swale on the site. Is erosion a concern? Will the vegetation in the swale survive?

Design on the site will mitigate potential risks including stormwater runoff and potential future erosion as well as encroachment of any invasive species as a result of site disturbance during construction. Parks Canada also has the option of planting specific shade-tolerant species to grow in harmony with both the natural and built environment.

When will the final schematic design be announced?

Throughout 2022, architects, engineers, and interpretive consultants have been working to transform the site concept, co-designed and developed with Indigenous partners, into schematic design drawings for construction. Informed by public feedback, the final schematic design will be announced and shared on the Rouge National Urban Park website in the fall. After the release of the final schematic design, Parks Canada will work with contractors to prepare the site for construction. We expect to break ground in the spring of 2023!


Have your say!

Parks Canada invites you to participate in the public engagement phase for the design and construction of Rouge National Urban Park’s flagship visitor, learning and community centre. Your ideas will help shape the design of the physical space and the themes explored here.

How do I participate?