Rouge National Urban Park

In spring 2011, the Government of Canada announced its interest in creating the country’s first national urban park in the Rouge Valley east of Toronto, and Parks Canada has since been busy conducting background studies and consulting with stakeholder groups that will allow the Rouge National Urban Park begin to take shape. On May 15, 2012, the federal government reaffirmed its committment with $143.7million for park establishment, and Parks Canada launched its initial park concept for public feedback and input in June 2012. Learn the latest from Parks Canada by Clicking Here. This national urban park initiative builds on decades of work by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Rouge Park Alliance, local conservation groups and hundreds of volunteers, which has laid the foundation for this park and already protected thousands of acres of sensitive natural lands, and some farmlands.

The Ontario Farmland Trust (OFT) has been promoting agriculture and farmland protection during the Rouge National Urban Park planning and development process, and Parks Canada has identified agriculture as a key element of the park from the start. The Rouge National Urban Park will be unique and established with its own legislation, which allows Parks Canada to be creative in developing a new park model, and allows sustainable agriculture to be part of the park vision.

The national urban park boundaries have not yet been finalized, and there is the potential for thousands more acres of prime farmland to be included in the park, or protected through other means, during this planning stage. A park study area has been announced, which outlines an additional 5,000 acres of farmland in York Region to be added to the current Rouge Park, to be protected for ongoing agricutlural production. Click Here for a Map of the Rouge National Urban Park Study Area.

There are unique and unprecendented opportunities for conservation and farmland protection in the larger GTA East area, where the current Rouge Park is located. This area contains a cluster of public landholdings, containing some of Canada’s best agricultural soils. The York Region lands included in the park study area, for example, are part of an 18,600 acre reserve the federal government has held since the 1970s for a potential airport development. Federal lands remaining outside the National Park study area are located in Durham Region and are managed by Transport Canada. These remaining lands are Class 1-3 farmland and much of the area is surplus to what may be needed for a future airport. These farmlands could be permanently protected for long-term agricultural use adjacent to other farmlands and natural areas of the Rouge National Urban Park. Click Here for a Map of Public Landholdings in the GTA East Area.

The location of the Rouge National Urban Park and adjacent public lands, within 100 kilometers of 20 percent of Canada’s population, presents immense opportunity to connect people to agriculture and the land that grows the food we eat. OFT hopes that agriculture, farmland protection and local food will become foundational elements of the new national urban park, and a priority for the federal government as it plans for the future land use and management of its landholdings in York and Durham.

Read OFT’s 16 Recommendations to Parks Canada Here (PDF)

Click Here for OFT’s Spring 2012 News Release on Supporting Agriculture in the Park (PDF)