Frequently asked questions
For more information on this project, and to provide feedback or request a meeting with a member of our project team, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In light of COVID-19, the deadline for public feedback has been extended by 6 months to May 1, 2021. Read what others are saying about the Rouge Beach Improvements Project
For more information on this project, and to provide feedback or request a meeting with a member of our project team, please contact us at email@example.com. In light of COVID-19, the deadline for public feedback has been extended by 6 months to May 1, 2021.
Read what others are saying about the Rouge Beach Improvements Project
Will this project improve accessibility for people with mobility challenges, and will the project be AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant?
This project will significantly improve access to green space for people with accessibility challenges and, unlike the present marsh trail layout, will be AODA compliant (i.e. will meet or exceed standards from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act).
From a safety perspective, currently visitors wishing to connect from the beach to other areas of the park must leave the park and negotiate crossing two dangerous Highway 401 on-ramps without the aid of a sidewalk or signalized crossing. This is dangerous and not an ideal situation for community residents and park users, which include children and people with accessibility challenges.
Moreover, people with accessibility challenges presently lack access to the Rouge River area of the marsh; this is in contrast to dozens of socially created/unofficial trails that, in addition to being harmful to native ecosystems through trampling and erosion, do not afford opportunities for people with accessibility challenges to gain access to green space.
The present layout allows visitors that venture off-trail access to a myriad of ecologically sensitive areas without offering a comparable opportunity to people with disabilities or mobility challenges, while also causing uncontrolled and ongoing impact to these areas. By formalizing one of the existing marsh trails and adding boardwalk and handrail components, Parks Canada will achieve the desired outcome of reducing trampling and limiting the human footprint in the marsh area while providing river access to Canadians with accessibility limitations. Parks Canada feels strongly that this is a more inclusive and environmentally responsible approach than the present situation.
How will Parks Canada facilitate access to the beach and boardwalk?
Entry points to the area will be facilitated in four places:
- The main access point will remain at the corner of Lawrence Ave and Rouge Hills Drive, where Parks Canada is planning to decommission the lower parking lot (which is in a flood zone) adjacent to the Rouge River; the main access road will be raised above the flood plain to become a pedestrian plaza enhanced by ecological marsh restoration and planting. Raising the road and converting it to serve mainly as a pedestrian access will help return ecosystem function to the basin of the marsh and mitigate future flooding, erosion and damage to public infrastructure. Additional parking spots will be added at the upper parking lot at the corner of Lawrence and Rouge Hills to compensate for lost parking in the lower parking lot area.
- The Pickering side of the park will remain a point of access, with limited parking available on Bella Vista Drive.
- The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, accessed from the Rouge Hill GO Station, will be a point of entry. Parks Canada will strongly encourage anyone wishing to access the area to do so via the Rouge Hill GO Station, including recommending that park visitors use public (TTC or Metrolinx) or active (cycling, walking) transportation to visit the area.
- The Mast Trail and Glen Rouge Campground areas of the park, accessed off Kingston Road, will be a northern point of entry and 15 additional parking spots will be added to this access area.
Although not currently part of the area plan, Parks Canada has requested that Metrolinx add a tunnel under the railway near the upper parking lot as part of their long-term planning for the rail bed. Such a tunnel would help improve access to the waterfront trail and beach area for the West Rouge community.
How will the project impact paddlers?
Parks Canada is committed to maintaining access to the area for canoe, kayak and paddleboard users within seasonally appropriate timing windows. Presently, the main canoe/kayak/paddleboard launch area is situated in the lower parking lot of the Rouge Beach; however, this parking lot is frequently flooded and inaccessible for many weeks and sometimes months each year. Parks Canada is proposing to decommission the lower parking lot and move the canoe/kayak/paddleboard launch area to a dedicated launch zone in the upper parking lot area.
The redesign will ensure seasonal access to the water for all paddlers, and the new purpose-built canoe/kayak/paddleboard launch area will feature an accessible transfer system that is AODA compliant. From an ecological perspective, a dedicated launch area will help to reduce the launching footprint and will also contribute to increased ecological protection by converting the lower parking area into a more naturalized marsh and functional wetland ecosystem.
Parks Canada will consider establishing a Restricted Activity Order in this area for canoe/kayak/paddleboard use, primarily in the spring of the year when species sensitive to noise and disturbance are breeding and nesting.
Why does Parks Canada feel the need to improve this area of the park?
Parks Canada assumed management for this area of the park in June 2019 and has determined that the entire area is under serious risk due to flooding, erosion and significant ecological concerns. Dozens of socially created trails in the marsh are wreaking havoc on the area’s species-at-risk and rare ecosystems. The beach area’s infrastructure is failing and, when flooding events do occur, toxins, salt and oils from the lower beach parking lot seep into sensitive wetland and marsh ecosystems, posing risk to aquatic species such as waterfowl, fish and freshwater invertebrates. Rampant invasive species in the marsh pose significant threats to local biodiversity. The current use of the area, which Parks Canada inherited when these lands transferred to Parks Canada in June 2019, has led to systemic dumping and pollution (e.g. there is a rusting car in the ravine), trampling of vegetation, and the continual and incremental degradation of wildlife habitat.
From a safety perspective, pedestrians wishing to connect from the beach to other areas of the park must leave the park and negotiate crossing two dangerous Highway 401 on-ramps without the aid of a sidewalk or signalized crossing. This is dangerous and not an ideal situation for community residents and park users, which include children and people with accessibility challenges.
The Rouge Beach Improvements Project proposal recognizes that Parks Canada needs to look into ways to adapt the existing infrastructure in a fashion that will permit us to better manage the potential impacts of visitation by seeking ways to control the footprint on the landscape. In addition to restoring ecosystems and improving ecological integrity, we seek to do this in a way that also improves outcomes for people with mobility or accessibility challenges. For example, the current use of the marsh and wetland area takes place predominately on socially created trails that, in addition to being harmful to native ecosystems through systemic trampling, contamination and dumping, do not afford opportunities for people with accessibility challenges to gain access to green space. This work is necessary to safeguard the beach area for continued and sustainable local and community access and to allow Parks Canada to better protect species-at-risk and sensitive ecosystems.
During the summer of 2020, the beach area was heavily visited. What is Parks Canada going to do to address the crowded beach?
Parks Canada is implementing a number of visitor use management strategies to address capacity issues and support positive visitor experiences for all. These include increased beach and community clean-up events, the creation of a local beach staffed compliance team, increased Parks Canada law enforcement presence, discouraging overall visitation to the beach (or recommending visitation during off-peak hours) and the introduction of paid parking in the coming years. Although Parks Canada does not promote the beach area, we will strongly encourage anyone wishing to access the area to do so via the Rouge Hill GO Station, including recommending park visitors use public transit (TTC or Metrolinx) or active transportation (cycling, walking) to visit the area. We will also be working closely with City of Toronto bylaw officers to manage and prevent illegal street parking on Rouge Hill Drive.
What will be done to address dumping and pollution in the marsh, illegal beach fires, partying and other unwanted activities?
Parks Canada assumed management of the beach area in June 2019, but we are aware of longstanding community issues and concerns. Parks Canada has made it an operational priority to improve community safety in the beach area and is addressing this challenge through a variety of tools and staff resources, including:
- increased compliance and Parks Canada law enforcement (warden) presence in the southern areas of the park;
- the introduction of monthly beach clean-up events; increasing strategic after-hours and late-night monitoring of the beach area;
- improved and increased solid waste collection and reductions; and
- fines of up to $1 million for environmental contamination, dumping and other violations of the Rouge National Urban Park Act.
Moreover, as part of the Rouge Beach Improvements Project, Parks Canada will introduce design solutions that will address Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), a philosophy that encourages the use of design to eliminate or reduce unwanted and criminal behaviour.
What services will be permitted in the beach area (i.e. water recreation rentals, day camps) and how will they be managed?
Parks Canada will maintain and improve the natural heritage character of the beach and will neither allow nor tolerate any commercialization of the area. As part of the park's visitor use management framework, Parks Canada will continue to allow some appropriate, low-impact activities such as canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Recreational fishing will be allowed to continue in designated areas with the use of a valid Ontario Fishing License. Fishing will not be permitted on the marsh trail with boardwalk components. All activities will be closely monitored from a compliance, law enforcement, ecological integrity and visitor safety and enjoyment perspective. Parks Canada supports the continued use of the area by the Pickering Rouge Canoe Club, who are long-time users and stewards of the area. Parks Canada is also working with the West Rouge Community Association to consider the introduction of community canoe/kayak/paddleboard storage as part of this project.
Will there be lifeguards on the beach?
Parks Canada is planning to reintroduce lifeguards to Rouge Beach during July and August.
Will Parks Canada allow BBQs or fires on the beach?
Parks Canada will not allow BBQs or fires without a special permit, and will increase monitoring, compliance and enforcement to reduce and eliminate these activities.
Best practices - Trail building
What experience and expertise does Parks Canada have with a project of this nature?
Parks Canada is the steward of some of the greatest national examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and is responsible for maintaining their ecological and commemorative integrity for future generations. Parks Canada was established in 1911 and is the world's first national parks service. The Agency is responsible for operations under multiple pieces of federal legislation, including the Rouge National Urban Park Act, and protects approximately 450 000 km2 – an area of land larger than the country of Sweden – of Canada’s terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems. Parks Canada is the steward of 47 national parks, one national urban park, four national marine conservation areas and 171 national historic sites, including nine heritage canals.
Regarding similar projects, Parks Canada has amassed an array of experiences in safeguarding, restoring, designing and building green infrastructure all across the country. Similar examples of projects that Parks Canada has undertaken across the country include trail and park enhancement projects in the Jones Creek Trails at Thousand Islands National Park, floating boardwalks in Greenwich, PEI National Park, and a marsh boardwalk in Point Pelee National Park, a noted migratory bird hotspot. Parks Canada has also gained significant international experience in allowing for the safe passage of wildlife across varied landscapes, including the world-renowned 46 wildlife crossings in Banff National Park.
Locally, Parks Canada's team for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project is made up of 11 ecologists along with several archaeologists, project coordinators, and an environmental and design consultant. Our team of experts includes species-at-risk biologists, ecosystem monitoring specialists, ecosystem restoration biologists, and environmental impact assessment officers. Our project team is also supported by the involvement of field liaisons and archaeologists from the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle, who work in partnership with Parks Canada to ensure the area's profound history and cultural heritage are well protected and considered in all aspects of the project's design.
In addition to Parks Canada's considerable national experiences and expertise, our project team has taken great inspiration from sustainable trail and boardwalk design solutions from non-Parks Canada locations in Ontario such as Rattray Marsh in Mississauga, Lynde Shores Conservation Area in Whitby and Coote's Paradise in Hamilton. Parks Canada also takes inspiration from similar trails and boardwalks managed by Ontario Nature such as the Petrel Point Nature Reserve and Altberg Wildlife Sanctuary.
How will this project improve the ecological integrity of the park?
This project will result in overall ecological gains to the marsh and surrounding riparian zones. Ongoing collaboration with park ecologists and key partners and stakeholders will help to inform measures such as the removal of the lower parking lot to decrease shoreline hardening and stop toxins from flowing into surrounding wetlands during flooding events, removal and exclusion of invasive species, improving wetland habitat for key species such as species-at-risk turtles and regulating visitor activities at appropriate levels and locations, including the prevention of habitat damage from social trails. Additionally, Parks Canada will consider rising water levels and shoreline erosion in creating resilient and durable infrastructure capable of sustaining long-term visitor use. Furthermore, formalizing and revitalizing trails, parking and infrastructure will focus visitor traffic to areas designed to support accessible visitation and will reduce the overall human footprint in the area, which features a level of native biodiversity not found anywhere else in Toronto, while maintaining a quality visitor experience.
How will Parks Canada protect species-at-risk while restoring the marsh and building trails
Parks Canada will actively seek expertise and guidance from a variety of partners during all phases of the project to ensure considerations relevant to species-at-risk are incorporated into the planning, design and implementation phases of the project. A thoughtful, holistic approach to design will mitigate impacts to rare and sensitive species, and ecological restoration work will improve ecosystem structure and function for a variety of plants and animals, but in particular will focus on improving and protecting species-at-risk habitat. Key restoration design elements being considered include, but are not limited to:
- creation of additional habitat for species at risk through the re-naturalization of the marsh basin (i.e. decommissioning of the lower parking lot and restoration of the marsh shoreline);
- improvement of plant community composition through significant restoration plantings of thousands of trees and shrubs and significant invasive plant species management efforts;
- installation of carp exclusion barriers to mitigate habitat degradation caused by invasive aquatic species;
- placement of unique habitats or habitat features that help to support all life stages of species-at-risk (e.g. turtle nesting habitats, bat houses, complex woody habitat for fishes, etc.); and
- signage, education and outreach, and increased surveillance programs to mitigate threats to rare and sensitive species caused by human activities such as littering, vegetation trampling and release of unwanted pets into natural ecosystems.
During the restoration and building phases of the project, Parks Canada will employ several mitigation and compensation measures to help protect species-at-risk, and these include:
- Requiring implementation of hundreds of environmental mitigations to help protect the natural environment, which will be made available for public comment within the Detailed Impact Assessment, and include requirements such as completing impactful work outside of important seasonal timing windows for wildlife.
- Deploying environmental surveillance officers during restoration and construction work to ensure no direct harm to any wildlife occurs.
What invasive species are in this area and how will they be managed?
The main invasive aquatic plant species is Phragmites australis, the European common reed. Efforts to remove this species in the area are currently underway. Common carp are also present in Lake Ontario and the marsh ecosystem, as well as round gobies, non-native turtles and zebra mussels. In the forested areas, you may encounter dog-strangling vine, garlic mustard and buckthorn. A Parks Canada Integrated Pest Management Plan is currently in development for the entire park, and the known issues south of the 401 will be targeted during beach and boardwalk improvement projects to improve the overall ecological integrity of the park.
Environmental Impact Assessment
When is an Environmental Impact Study expected to be completed? How does Parks Canada intend to protect the 36 endangered species in the marsh during and after construction?
Federally with Parks Canada, the study is termed an Environmental Impact Assessment, of which there are different pathways that can be used depending on various factors and considerations. The assessment pathway selected for this project is a Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA), which is the most comprehensive of the impact assessment pathways. This assessment is currently underway and so far we have:
- characterized the vegetation in the area with Ecological Land Classification,
- compiled data from Marsh Monitoring Program surveys conducted in the marsh for the last 10 years,
- carefully compiled endangered and threatened species data from many sources including the Natural Heritage Information Centre, the TRCA, independent studies from partners such as the Toronto Zoo and internal observational data, and
- assessed options for rejuvenation of the Rouge Beach, including shoreline erosion prevention, and recommendations for ongoing maintenance practices that will improve ecological health (e.g. beach grooming, sanitation monitoring).
Through our assessments we implement hundreds of mitigation and compensation measures, which include:
- not doing harmful work within important seasonal timing windows for wildlife, such as the breeding bird window (April 1-August 15) and fish, amphibian and reptile activity windows,
- using the lowest impact equipment and machinery possible, and
- conducting environmental surveillance during construction to ensure that contractors are complying with our requirements.
Beyond the standard mitigation measures that are typically implemented, the DIA process allows for the development of targeted location-specific mitigation strategies designed for the unique considerations of the site, and usually includes post-project monitoring to ensure the long-term effectiveness of mitigation measures.
Though we have an inherent interest in restoring the marsh by removing invasive species, stopping erosion and reducing pollution, we are also required to improve the habitat of the native Species at Risk in the area including for species-at-risk turtle as the marsh provides federally categorized critical habitat. There is also potential to explore such future protection measures as closing the area during critical breeding windows for species such as least bittern and other sensitive marsh birds in the area.
What kind of environmental impact assessment is planned and when can the public provide comments?
A full Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA) – the highest standard of federal environmental impact analysis in the country – is underway and a report will be posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry in spring 2021. The public will then have 30 days to provide comments, which can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA)?
The DIA is a process that identifies valuable ecological components that are at risk to impacts during project construction and post-construction, and determines the levels of risk and how to mitigate or compensate for them. Mitigation could be achieved through working outside of the breeding bird window, avoiding active times of day for wildlife, avoiding sensitive habitats, implementing extensive erosion and sediment control plans, and many more. Many restoration and compensation opportunities are also available, such as invasive species removal, water quality improvement, planting of native species, and at-risk species reintroductions. Additionally, the DIA includes one of several aspects of Parks Canada's public engagement efforts on this project.
How will Parks Canada ensure that this project does not lead to excessive garbage, littering and dumping in the park?
Parks Canada has significantly increased cleaning services of the beach, increased Parks Canada law enforcement presence, and is planning significant improvements to the area’s environmental design– including restricting pedestrian traffic to a controlled trail/boardwalk area and by restoring socially created trails where pollution has been a major issue for many years.
Parks Canada is also planning to run monthly garbage and beach clean-up and community events from spring to late fall. Beginning in the spring of 2021, Parks Canada will employ a team of compliance officers throughout the park, with particular emphasis on curtailing and eliminating garbage issues. Parks Canada will also begin implementing new, wildlife-proof waste receptacles at the beach and across the park beginning in early 2021. Moreover, Parks Canada is asking for the public’s help to curtail and report illegal dumping in Rouge National Urban Park and has set up a garbage and dumping tips hotline, where fines of up to $1 million may be imposed under the Rouge National Urban Park Act. If you witness incidents of illegal dumping in the park, please call 416-282-1019 with any information. Tips may be left anonymously.
How is Parks Canada engaging with Indigenous Peoples on this project?
Parks Canada engages with its Indigenous partners on all aspects of establishing and operating Rouge National Urban Park. Indigenous partners, through the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle (FNAC), are working with Parks Canada to review and contribute to the design of all aspects of the project, and they have a key role during in-park archaeological fieldwork to better understand the area’s cultural heritage. Indigenous partners will also work closely with Parks Canada on the project’s ecological restoration and interpretive heritage components.
How will Parks Canada address the increase in noise from construction, visitors and traffic?
Parks Canada does not anticipate a significant noise impact during construction. There is one piece of equipment that installs boardwalk footings and the loudest construction sounds from installing similar boardwalks has been from hammering lumber. Work is never allowed to occur between 7pm and 7am, and during sensitive wildlife windows this has been further restricted to between 5pm and 8am. As part of the design of the trail, we are open to considerations, such as noise restrictions and trail closures between sunset and sunrise.
What are the objectives of this project?
- Mitigate the impacts of climate change, flooding and erosion
In recent years, the Rouge Beach lower parking lot and access road have experienced a number of significant flooding events, resulting in repeated closures during the spring and summer seasons. Some of these closures have lasted over three months. The effects of these flood-related closures and increasing shoreline erosion have negatively impacted visitor safety and use, as well as existing infrastructure. These conditions pose a significant threat to the long-term operational sustainability of the beach area. Flooding has also caused environmental damage through parking lot oil and salt spillage seeping into the nearby marsh and wetland ecosystems.
Proposed enhancements to the area include raising the lower day use area, including the access road, above the fluvial floodplain along with erosion mitigation efforts to protect existing assets and facilities. Parks Canada is also proposing to close the lower parking lot (where flooding has been most severe) and adding additional parking spots and a canoe drop zone at the upper parking lot to compensate. The lower parking lot would be restored to a more natural state.
- Improve safety, inclusivity, stewardship and connectivity for all visitors and residents
Existing beach facilities and visitor amenities are out-of-date and in advanced states of disrepair and decay, resulting in an unwelcoming environment that has become host to an array of inappropriate uses such as illegal fires, partying and loitering. The lower parking lot at Rouge Beach is the site of traffic congestion, safety concerns and vehicle/pedestrian conflict. Additionally, the park trail system does not currently meet the needs of all visitors, including those with accessibility challenges. Furthermore, due to the lack of in-park trail connectivity, pedestrians must cross two dangerous Highway 401 ramps or walk on streets without sidewalks in order to transit between all areas of the national urban park north of Rouge Beach.
Proposed improvements to the day use area include a redesign and reformat of the upper and lower parking lots, a renovation of the beach washroom facility, a replacement of the sanitary lift station and line, the inclusion of beach accessibility surfacing, the addition of a pedestrian plaza and boardwalk pier, and amenities to support an increased presence of Parks Canada law enforcement, compliance and education staff. Further management actions to improve behaviours in the area will include: more Parks Canada-led garbage and beach clean-ups; fines of up to $1 million for dumping and pollution; increased law enforcement presence; a new compliance team to monitor visitor use; targeted summertime evening enforcement to reduce and work towards eliminating illegal activities. Formalizing a trail connection, including the addition of boardwalk components, will also help to ensure inclusive, barrier-free access for all residents and visitors to safely connect them from the beach to other park areas.
- Restore ecosystems and improve ecological integrity
The project includes considerable ecological restoration work within the beach and surrounding marsh area, such as broad-scale invasive species management, restoration and expansion of fish and wildlife habitat, stabilization of marsh banks and re-naturalization of vegetation communities through plantings of thousands of trees and shrubs, shoreline grooming and garbage reduction, increased protections for species-at-risk, increased ecological monitoring efforts, and the addition of wildlife-proof waste management. The proposed raised boardwalk will also catalyze an incremental reduction and restoration of unofficial, or social, trails that currently provide access to and negatively impact sensitive marsh habitat through trampling, illegal harvesting and inappropriate uses such as partying. The boardwalk trail will provide visitors with a low-impact option to experience the site in a way that is respectful of this ecologically sensitive area, which features a level of native biodiversity not found anywhere else in Toronto.
- Respect the rights of neighbouring ravine property owners and residential communities
The Rouge Beach and Marsh function as a cherished community hub, loved and enjoyed by members of the West Rouge community to the west and the Pickering Rouge community to the east. Residents value this area as an extension of their backyards and are recognized as important allies in its stewardship. Parks Canada respects the rights of all community members and is committed to listening to and working in collaboration and in good faith with park communities to balance Parks Canada’s diverse project objectives. Community feedback has been instrumental in helping Parks Canada to identify more favourable trail routes as well as operational considerations such as potentially putting in place community-friendly beach and trail operating hours.
How will Parks Canada manage parking around the beach day use area?
Parks Canada has significant experience in managing parking and carrying capacity in higher volume areas and will draw on this experience and our close relationships with the City of Toronto and local community organizations to help manage parking in the Rouge Beach area.
Parks Canada’s ultimate goal is to discourage and reduce visitation by car to the Rouge Beach area. As part of the park’s sustainability strategy, Parks Canada will not promote the Rouge Beach area as a destination and will strongly encourage active (walking/cycling) and public transportation (TTC and Go Train) as the primary means of visiting the beach area. Parks Canada envisions the area being primarily enjoyed by locals and residents, with other visitors using the TTC, Go Train or cycling as their primary means of accessing the site.
Parks Canada is proposing to decommission the lower Rouge Beach parking lot near the Rouge River as it is subject to frequent flooding events and is in an environmentally sensitive part of the marsh. To compensate for the lost parking spaces in the lower parking lot, Parks Canada will expand the size of the upper parking at the intersection of Rouge Hills Drive and Lawrence Avenue by striving to add a minimum of 50 new parking spots. Parks Canada will also add 15 additional parking spots at the Mast Trail area, which is the northern end of the proposed formalized Rouge Marsh trail with boardwalk components.
Parks Canada has worked very closely with the West Rouge community and is aware of concerns related to illegal street parking on Rouge Hills Drive and Lawrence Avenue. Although these roads are outside of Parks Canada’s jurisdiction, Parks Canada’s compliance and law enforcement teams will work very closely with City of Toronto bylaw to ensure visitors to the Rouge Beach area avoid illegal street parking, and our uniformed staff will always direct people away from parking in these places.
Parks Canada is also considering adding paid parking with time restrictions to the Rouge Beach area within 5 years, to help to reduce parking demands.
For those wishing to visit by car, Parks Canada will suggest parking at alternative locations, such as the Rouge Hill GO Station where the park may be accessed via the Waterfront Trail. It’s also worth noting that the City of Toronto also operates a parking lot that services the Rouge Beach area.
Parks Canada has also entered into discussions with the City of Toronto to potentially expand their parking lot at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Rouge Hills Drive (on the northwest side of Lawrence Ave) and to acquire additional lands on the north side of Lawrence Ave to add additional parking spaces near the current bus turnaround area on Lawrence Avenue. The city is currently reviewing this request.
Partnerships and community relations
Who is Parks Canada partnering with on this project?
Parks Canada is partnering with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park on this project, with both organizations strongly supporting all of Parks Canada’s objectives for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project. The Waterfront Regeneration Trust’s involvement is anchored by their founding chair, the Honourable David Crombie, former chair of Ontario’s Greenbelt Council. The Friends of Rouge National Urban Park’s involvement is championed by the Honourable Pauline Browes, Canada’s Former Minister of State for the Environment and a founding member of the Save the Rouge Park Alliance Board – the body that led to the eventual protection of the Rouge Valley in the 1990s.
What is the role of the Toronto and Region and Conservation Authority (TRCA) in this project?
Parks Canada has agreed to participate in a voluntary review of all project plans by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), to provide objective peer review on proposed plans and environmental mitigations.
The TRCA transferred their lands to Parks Canada for the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP) in 2019. As a result, these lands now fall under Parks Canada’s jurisdiction; however, the TRCA and Parks Canada continue to operate in partnership, where TRCA provides voluntary review of Parks Canada planned projects within RNUP. Additionally, the TRCA often provides services for the implementation of Parks Canada projects.
As per John MacKenzie, the CEO of the TRCA:
“The TRCA is proud to work in partnership with Parks Canada on all aspects of establishing Rouge National Urban Park and, since 2015, our two organizations have collaborated to plant over 100,000 trees and shrubs and to complete over 60 ecosystem restoration projects in the park. Through this work we have confidence in Parks Canada’s ability to deliver projects of the highest environmental standards that provide a net ecological and social benefit to neighbouring communities. The TRCA is proud to support and work with Parks Canada on the Rouge Beach Improvements Project, a project that will mitigate climate change, flooding and erosion; enhance ecological integrity; implement the TRCA Trails Strategy for the Greater Toronto Region; and improve community and visitor safety and connections.
Parks Canada is a world leader in sustainable trail development and has committed to completing a detailed impact analysis – the highest standard of federal environmental impact analysis in the country. Parks Canada has also committed to a voluntary external review of the project by the TRCA experts. Through our review and involvement in the Rouge Beach Improvements Project, TRCA looks forward to working closely with Parks Canada to ensure the best possible outcome.”
What other groups or organizations has Parks Canada engaged with?
Parks Canada has been actively engaging with the West Rouge Community Association, the Pickering Accessibility Advisory Committee, and the Ravine Property Owners Association to co-design community, environmental and accessibility-friendly solutions within the context of the project’s main objectives.
Parks Canada is also engaging closely with Wildlands League (the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society), Ontario Nature, the Pickering Field Naturalists, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Aquatic Habitat Toronto and many other organizations.
How will this project respect property owner’s rights and boundaries?
No lands will be expropriated or taken from private owners. The Rouge National Urban Park Act is very clear that lands can only be added to the park on a willing buyer, willing seller basis.
Will these improvements lower property values?
Studies have demonstrated that community trails can be associated with higher property values, especially when a trail is designed to provide neighbourhood access and maintain residents' privacy. Trails, like good schools or low crime, create an amenity that can add great value to a local community (taken from Headwaters Economics). In the case of the Rouge Beach Improvements Project, a formalized trail with boardwalk components is expected to improve both the park’s ecological integrity and community safety, which in turn could lead to higher property values, providing a benefit to local homeowners as well as increasing the tax base for both the cities of Toronto and Pickering. Indeed, many studies from across North America have shown that the addition of community trails have consistently been shown to increase (or have no effect on) property values, to have no measurable effect on public safety, and to have an overwhelming positive influence on the quality of life for trail neighbours as well as the larger community (taken from American Trails).
Public and community feedback
Has Parks Canada consulted with the public on this project?
While focussed community engagement for this project has been underway since February 2020, and significant engagement on this project was covered in the seven-year (2012-2019) management plan engagement process where we heard from over 20,000 people, Parks Canada acknowledges that more must be done to improve communications and continue to work with and listen to the community on design and environmental solutions. To this end, Parks Canada agreed in the fall of 2020 to extend the public commenting period by six months to May 1, 2021. As part of this extended engagement period, Parks Canada is continuing to conduct community co-design workshops/meetings and walks. In addition to the extended public engagement period, the public will have an opportunity to also comment and provide feedback on the project’s Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA), which will be posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry in early 2021. The results of all public engagement will be posted online in a “What We Heard” accountability report later in 2021.
Will the public be able to comment on and provide feedback for this project?
Yes, there are a number of methods by which the public can comment on and provide feedback for the project, including through Rouge National Urban Park’s projects email: email@example.com.
The Rouge Beach Improvements Project webpages will be active until the project has been completed. Please be sure to check in regularly to get up-to-date information on the project. In addition, there will be opportunities for the public to comment on the Detail Impact Assessment report that will be completed for this project in spring 2021.
What feedback has Parks Canada received regarding this project?
Since the start of engagement, we have received feedback from many locals, community members, community groups, Indigenous partners and organizations that have shown great interest in this project. In general, the feedback has been supportive and there is strong support to see the area protected and for Parks Canada to improve accessibility.
The feedback has also flagged important concerns and asked us to clarify a number of items. Some of these include:
- disturbance to the wildlife in the marsh;
- the sensitive environment of the marsh;
- potential for increased garbage, noise, unwanted social issues;
- safety of visitors and locals;
- concerns about flooding and damage to infrastructure;
- access to the beach during construction;
- access to the water;
- increased vehicular and human traffic; and
- even questions on whether an environmental assessment will be done.
Comments and concerns from the public have helped highlight areas where we will place additional focus in the impact assessment and planning stages of the project. The concerns and points of clarification are items we are aware of and are focused on addressing for this project. As a result, we have extended the engagement period for this project to May 1, 2021 to ensure that we continue receiving valuable feedback.
How can I comment on this project?
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scheduling and costing
What is the project schedule and the estimated project costs?
Parks Canada first introduced this project to the community in the fall of 2016 at the West Rouge Community’ Association’s Annual General Meeting, with focussed and detailed community engagement for the project underway since February 2020. In light of COVID-19, Parks Canada agreed in the fall of 2020 to extend the public commenting period by six months to May 1, 2021. As part of this extended engagement period, Parks Canada is continuing to conduct community co-design workshops/meetings and walks. In addition to the extended public engagement period, the public will have an opportunity to also comment and provide feedback on the project’s Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA), which will be posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry website in early 2021. The results of all public engagement will be posted online in a “What We Heard” accountability report later in 2021.
Once all feedback has been incorporated, Parks Canada is aiming to move the project forward in two phases.
Phase 1 – Emergency repairs to mitigate climate change, flooding, and erosion and to enhance ecological integrity
Phase 1 involves work associated with the revitalization of Rouge Beach that will address climate change, flooding, and erosion mitigation. This includes the improvements to the Rouge Beach day use area, renovation of the beach washroom facility, replacement of the sanitary lift station & line, addition of a pedestrian plaza and boardwalk pier, redesign of the Rouge Beach upper parking lot to add additional parking capacity and a canoe/kayak/paddleboard drop-off and launch zone, and decommissioning of the lower parking lot which is in a flood zone and frequently underwater. Subject to public feedback and design modifications, work on this phase would commence in the fall of 2021 and continue to the fall of 2022. Beach and marsh areas may be closed intermittently depending on the work that is underway to allow for these emergency repairs.
Phase II – Trail, ecological, & safety enhancements, including formalizing a trail connection with handrail and boardwalk components
Phase II involves work associated with restoring marshland areas and formalizing a trail with boardwalk and handrail components. Subject to public feedback and design modifications, this phase would commence in the of summer 2022 and be completed in the fall of 2023. Access to the beach may be closed or limited depending on work that is underway to allow for restoration work and for these area improvements.
Parks Canada has committed $7.5 million to this project to implement the key project objectives relating to mitigating flooding and erosion and improving ecological integrity, visitor safety and accessibility. Funding was first committed by the Government of Canada in 2012 as part of its initiative to create a national urban park in the Greater Toronto Area. Ongoing maintenance and operational costs will be absorbed through Parks Canada asset staff.
Trail and boardwalk options
Why is there a need for a trail with boardwalk components?
Currently, a number of socially created trails in the Rouge Marsh area have resulted in uncontrolled and at times damaging access to ecological sensitive lands. This unmanaged access has led to dumping, trampling, contamination and serious threats to species-at-risk and rare ecosystems. This situation predates Parks Canada’s management and oversight of these lands, which began in June 2019, and is unacceptable in the context of a national park and the Rouge National Urban Park Act.
With increasing visitation numbers predating Parks Canada’s management of these lands, handrails and boardwalk components, as part of a formalized and managed trail, will help to improve visitor safety and in-park connections. The formalized trail and boardwalk components will streamline traffic in the area, reducing the pedestrian footprint in the natural area on unofficial (social) trails, which is detrimental to species-at-risk and ecosystems, damaging habitat and allows for the spread of invasive species. Handrail and boardwalk components will minimize and reduce trampling of sensitive vegetation and reverse the present situation where pedestrians currently wishing to connect from the beach to the Mast Trail must leave the park and negotiate crossing two dangerous Highway 401 on-ramps without the aid of a sidewalk or signalized crossing.
Accepting that people wish to access the Rouge Beach area, this proposal recognizes that we need to look into ways to adapt the existing infrastructure in a fashion that will allow Parks Canada to better manage the potential impacts of visitation by controlling access and limiting the human footprint in the area.
Through Parks Canada's accumulated knowledge and experiences in other parts of the country, we believe use of a handrail and boardwalk components are an effective and efficient way of controlling the impact on the landscape, particularly in sensitive environments. Imagine hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet walking directly on the marsh every day on non-designated trails – as is the present situation. Cumulatively that will contribute to compaction of the soil, it will create erosion, and the erosion and compaction could create water-holding depressions that form large mud puddles that people will try to walk around, thereby driving an even larger and wider trail footprint, expanding the impact further. Boardwalks allow visitors to "float" above the landscape, with all of the impact confined to the supporting piles that can be designed and planned to avoid and minimize impacts. Boardwalks allow us to access unique natural areas while beneath our feet the water keeps flowing, wildlife keeps moving, plants keep growing, and ecological processes keep functioning.
Will the trail damage the natural environment and chase away wildlife?
Parks Canada aims to improve the natural environment and outcomes for wildlife by formalizing and making accessible one of the dozens of socially created trails currently in the marsh area and gradually closing and restoring socially created trails that are currently negatively impacting wildlife habitat and the natural environment.
In terms of adding trail, handrail and boardwalk components, Parks Canada has garnered significant experience across the country putting in place similar structures with minimal impact to the local environment. For example, handrail and boardwalk components can be installed by helical piles, which are essentially large screws placed into the ground (not pounded). The machine used to aid in laying down boardwalk never sits on the ground, but rather rests on piles that have already been installed, moving along a track. After the piles are installed, the remaining boardwalk and handrail components can be built by hand. Parks Canada is investigating the least impactful techniques for construction for this project. Moreover, as much as possible, Parks Canada will seek to use a trail route based on the existing ecological footprint, thereby further limiting the human footprint.
As this project involves decommissioning large areas of failing infrastructure, a defining feature of the Rouge Beach Improvements Project will be enhancements to the park’s ecological integrity through significant inland marsh and aquatic habitat restoration, removal of invasive species, creation of habitat for species-at-risk, planting of thousands of trees and shrubs, the addition of wildlife crossings and passages, and by limiting and reducing the human footprint of the marsh.
Although jurisdiction and approvals for this project rest federally with Parks Canada, the same mitigations that would be applied to a similar kind of project that would fall under the jurisdictional authority of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (provincial) or Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (municipal), or better, would be applied to the Rouge Beach Improvements Project. Moreover, Parks Canada has agreed to participate in a voluntary review of all project plans by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, to provide objective peer review on proposed plans and environmental mitigations.
The environmental mitigations, habitat compensation and restoration, which would include tree-planting and creating habitat for species-at-risk, will be listed in the publicly-available Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA) and posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry in early 2021. Parks Canada would also have Environmental Surveillance Officers on-site at all times throughout the construction process to ensure all mitigation measures are adhered to.
What are the dimensions of the proposed boardwalk? What protective measures against flooding are proposed?
The trail from Rouge Beach to the Mast Trail and Glen Rouge Campground area will be approximately 2.5 kilometres in length. Currently, to get from the beach to the Mast Trail requires walking nearly 4.5 kilometres and, from a safety perspective, involves crossing two dangerous Highway 401 on-ramps without the aid of a sidewalk or signalized crossing.
Parks Canada is proposing a boardwalk width of 4 metres to ensure the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is respected, and to ensure physical distancing can be maintained in the event of a future pandemic or related public health issue. The width remains subject to community feedback and additional environmental impact analysis and universal accessibility review. In terms of routing, Parks Canada would follow one of the well-developed social or unofficial trails currently in the marsh area. Boardwalk height would vary across the landscape and is based on floodplain modelling to ensure the trail would clear the 100-year floodplain level (minimum 0.6 meters at higher elevation areas of the marsh). In addition, the boardwalk components would be further elevated in certain areas of the trail to facilitate the movement of wildlife and aquatic species throughout the ravine and valley.
What kind of materials will be used in the construction of the boardwalk?
Parks Canada is looking into fiberglass and alternative materials and avoiding treated wood for the boardwalk framing and structure. Fiberglass, for example, is a preferable to wood as it creates much less impact in future maintenance and has a lifespan of approximately 100 years. Although the decking material will likely be wood, Parks Canada is considering using non-treated cedar as it has better natural resistance to weathering and degradation than other non-treated wood.
How does Parks Canada intend to address the issue of ice damage to the bridges and boardwalk?
Parks Canada has a proven track record across 47 national parks of designing appropriate solutions to address similar issues. In this project, Parks Canada has raised concerns of potential ice damage to bridges and the trail with the design consultant and, working with community partners, will identify areas of concern where “built defences" may be added to break down the ice before it has the potential to damage any infrastructure.
Will the bridges restrict recreational water access?
All bridge components will be designed to provide appropriate clearance for canoe and kayak users.
How will a boardwalk protect the environment and promote environmental stewardship?
The boardwalk will streamline pedestrian traffic to reduce the damage caused by unofficial or socially created trails, such as dumping, contamination, trampling of species-at-risk and sensitive vegetation and the spread of invasive species. The boardwalk itself will "float" above the landscape, with all of the impact confined to the supporting piles that can be designed and planned to avoid and minimize impacts. Boardwalks allow us to access unique natural areas while beneath our feet the water keeps flowing, wildlife keeps moving, plants keep growing, and ecological processes keep functioning.
What is the decision-making process for choosing from the three trail/boardwalk routes?
Parks Canada will make a decision based on consultation with the local community, property owners, Indigenous Peoples, stakeholders and expert advice based on geomorphology, geotechnical stability, archaeological and natural heritage. Of the three routes proposed, public and community support has been the strongest for the middle route, which makes use of pre-existing social trails and avoids adjacent residences and property lines.
Will Parks Canada attempt to expropriate lands from park residents in order to build the trail?
Absolutely not. Lands will not be expropriated or taken from private owners. The Rouge National Urban Park Act is very clear that lands can only be added to the park on a willing buyer, willing seller basis. All three options being considered do not require any expropriation and are feasible on lands currently managed by Parks Canada.
Has Parks Canada monitored the unofficial or the socially created trails in the marsh area?
Yes. Although Parks Canada only assumed management of the beach and marsh areas in June 2019, we are aware of the longstanding community and environmental issues and concerns regarding socially created trails. Other agencies have monitored the area’s ecology for decades and Parks Canada has been monitoring the trails closely since 2014. As part of this work, Parks Canada has inventoried and documented significant environmental issues such as trampling, destruction of species-at-risk, dumping, pollution, contamination and the creation of unauthorized structures. Although no foot traffic studies have been done for the social trails to date, additional data will be gathered in 2021 on select high-pressure gathering areas.
What will Parks Canada do to manage increased visitation in the area?
Parks Canada will not actively promote the beach as a visitor destination. Visitors will be encouraged to use public transit or take use active transportation such as cycling to visit the area. For people that insist on visiting, Parks Canada will recommend visitation during off-peak hours. Parks Canada is also considering implementing paid parking with a time restriction for visitation, and we will consider closing the marsh trail to visitors between sunset and sunrise if required. Additional actions to be taken include increased beach and community clean up events, the creation of a staffed compliance team, and increased Parks Canada law enforcement (warden) presence. Parks Canada will also be working closely with City of Toronto bylaw officers to manage and prevent illegal street parking on Rouge Hill Drive. Parks Canada will also increase and improve solid waste collection and has the ability to give out fines of up to $1 million for environmental contamination, dumping and other violations under the Rouge National Urban Park Act.
What are the park rules?
Rouge National Urban Park is governed by the federal Rouge National Urban Park Act, and has in place several park rules. These rules can be found here.