Rouge Park encompasses 4,050 hectares and contains some of the largest and best examples of forest habitat, meadow, riverine and lacustrine wetlands in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It is home to important natural and cultural heritage sites and contains some of the very few working agricultural lands left within the City of Toronto. The Park comprises a variety of landscapes including a former landfill site, Rouge Beach, Glen Rouge Campground, Bob Hunter Memorial Park and the Toronto Zoo. In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, the Park is an important place for recreation and enjoyment of the natural environment.
For nearly two decades since its establishment, Rouge Park, has experienced physical growth through land acquisition and tremendous advocacy for environmental protection and enhancement through its partner agencies and stakeholders. Key objectives of the Park include the on-going protection of valued natural and cultural heritage features, the preservation of agriculture and the maintenance of a complex system of woodlands, meadows, ancient shorelines, streams and wetlands that define the Park.
The Trails Master Plan sets out a strategy to guide the future development of a cohesive, logical system of trails throughout Rouge Park in consideration of requirements related to environmental protection, restoration and enhancement. The Plan is regarded as an important first step in the process of implementing a trail system that will address user needs while protecting and affording visitors the opportunity to gain a heightened awareness of the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Park.
To this end, the Trails Master Plan was aimed at achieving the following four principal goals:
The vision that will be realized through the implementation of this Master Plan is a fully connected system of nature-based trails, accessible from the surrounding urban communities and public transit system that will support multi-modal transportation and contribute to overall sustainability. The trail system will be intertwined with a mosaic of rich landscapes and will ultimately comprise 67 kilometers of new soft surface trails and direct the closure of over 40 kilometers of existing trails that were determined to be impacting the environment of the Park.
An important ambition of the planning process was to reconcile the needs of a diverse group of stakeholders including First Nations, farmers, mountain bikers and recreation groups, environmental groups and NGO’s. The study process included over 300 participants representing 54 organizations.
Rouge Park is currently transitioning into the Parks Canada portfolio as Canada’s first urban wilderness National Park. The Trails Master Plan will be a vital tool to assist Parks Canada in the process of implementing a comprehensive trail system within the Park that is founded on natural and cultural heritage objectives.