Rouge Beach Park, seen from above. April, 2015
Rouge Beach Park, seen from above. April, 2015

With 7 million people living within a one hour drive of the Rouge Valley, it is imperative that we ensure this remarkable natural area and its wildlife are properly protected for the enjoyment of generations to come.  Rouge Park is located on the eastern boundary of the City of Toronto and houses much of the lower Rouge River watershed – one of the last in Western Lake Ontario to remain free of urban development.

Photo: Jacqueline C. Waters for CPAWS Wildlands League
Photo: Jacqueline C. Waters for CPAWS Wildlands League

Rouge Park is home to over 1700 species of plants and animals including 23 species at risk. The Rouge Valley also contains one of Ontario’s best remaining examples of Carolinian Forest and the last intact watershed in the area. A properly protected Rouge Park provides the only ecological connection for wildlife between the Oak Ridges Moraine and Lake Ontario in the Toronto area.

The current Rouge National Urban Park Act (which received Royal Assent on April 23, 2015) does not provide adequate protection for the remarkable values of the Rouge watershed. In fact, the protection is lower than provincial policy and laws. But there is hope. The new federal government has committed to improving the legislation.  This is why Paddle the Rouge is so important this year. It is imperative that we profile this natural area and what it means to local people. The law must be strengthened and nature conservation be made the first priority in management of the new park.