I was getting a bit worried this spring when the feds made their third announcement in a row about establishing Rouge National Park, yet had still failed to put up any money to get the ball rolling.
That changed this morning, when they sent two ministers and a seriously big cheque for a photo opp on the boardwalk in the Rouge. The effort to establish Canada's first urban National Park — and one of the biggest urban parks in the world — will now get more than $140 million over the next ten years.
Creating an urban National Park in the Rouge is an amazing opportunity to permanently protect a surprisingly intact 6,000-hectare green swath of wetlands, fields, farms and forests straddling the border of Toronto, Scarborough and Markham. If all goes as planned, Rouge NationalPark will be one of the biggest urban parks in the world — 18 times bigger than Central Park. It will follow the Rouge River from its source in the OntarioGreenbelt, down to the shores of Lake Ontario.
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Making the Rouge a National Park will help protect theregion's rich cultural, agricultural and ecological history and also connect local residents to an amazing green gem accessible by public transit. This is key, as more than 20 per cent of Canada's population lives within 100kilometres of the park.
The David Suzuki Foundation cautiously welcomes today's funding announcement. Rouge National Park will provide immense health and economic benefits for communities throughout the Greater TorontoArea for generations to come.
However, we remain concerned that the federal government is at the same time weakening environmental laws and laying-off key scientists and technical staff whose expertise will be necessary to ensure that Canada's protected areas don't become merely "paper parks."
But for now, we should all savour this turning point in keeping a big, awesome chunk of nature in the backyards of millions for generations to come.