Last spring many of you asked your new federal government to keep its promise by sending the following letter to provincial and federal politicians:

The Letter …

RE: Honouring Commitments to Strengthen Rouge National (Urban) Park Legislation

Dear Honourable Catherine McKenna,

Rouge Park is public land within one of Canada’s most endangered eco-zones, its most populous region and its most under-protected region in terms of national parks.

In 2015, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC), the NDP Party and the Green Party, all agreed to support amendments to the last government’s flawed Rouge National (Urban) Park legislation to:

  1. make the restoration and maintenance of ecological integrity the top park priority;
  2. ensure implementation of the Greenbelt and Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and science based watershed and Great Lakes water quality improvement plans;
  3. add additional public lands to make progress towards a 100 km2 Park.

Contrary to the fears of some, the amended legislation can prioritize ecological integrity, the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and watershed improvement plans, while reasonably accommodating farm leases on public lands in the Park.   The Greenbelt and Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” is less than 20% the average park width, leaving room for environmentally sustainable farming.

Based on science and the recommendations of Environment Canada, existing Rouge Park and Watershed Plans identify areas for continued farming and areas for restoring forest and wetland cover on public lands.  Forest and wetland restoration is necessary to: a) improve water quality and the health of our Lake Ontario watersheds and water sources; b) improve habitat for rare and endangered species; c) improve access to public parklands to enhance public health and well-being; d) spread park use over a larger park area to avoid traffic, parking and trail congestion problems and trampling of sensitive areas; and e) absorb water, carbon and pollutants to reduce growing flooding, erosion and pollution liabilities.

The implementation of Rouge Park and Watershed Plans is necessary to buffer the impacts of urban growth and climate change.  In 2013, one severe rain storm cost the GTA almost $1 billion in flood damages and a severe ice storm left thousands without heat and electricity for days.

Long before European settlement and widespread deforestation, the Rouge Watershed was home to indigenous people.  Restoring the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” will help to recreate the historic “Carrying Place Trail” and its indigenous landscape between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

A 2016 Globe and Mail Article quotes retired Parks Canada Superintendent Kevin Van Tighem:

“What is needed right now is top-down change: real leadership from a government, minister and CEO who deeply love the idea of national parks as places free from artifice, commodification and commercialization, where nature rules and all Canadians are free to discover the wild and the natural.”

GTA residents want a first-class National Rouge Park, not the substandard National Urban Park which the last government proposed. Rouge Park’s lands are natural and rural, not urban.  Therefore, the word urban should be deleted from the park name.

Canadians want environmental leadership and legislation which requires the implementation of science-based plans to improve the stability of our climate and the health of our watersheds, ecosystems and communities.

I respectfully ask you to prioritize ecological integrity, the Rouge Park “main ecological corridor” and watershed improvement plans within the amended legislation for a 100 km2 National Rouge Park.

I look forward to hearing from you about your plans to implement this real change.

Sincerely,

 

Your name and municipality or riding