Conservation groups are applauding the province’s decision to deny the transfer of its lands to the federal government for the proposed Rouge National Urban Park.
 
Earlier this week, Ontario Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid wrote a letter regarding the legislation for establishing the park or Bill C-40. According to the letter, refusal of the land transfer was grounded on the province’s requirement to “meet or exceed” standards of ecological integrity. The legislation lacked these requirements, Duguid’s letter said.
 
“The legislation needs to ensure that the natural values of the park will be protected in the long run,” said Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence in response to Duguid’s letter.
 
“The current draft just doesn’t do that.”
 
Gray said Environmental Defence understands why the province is hesitant to transfer the land under circumstances that would offer less protection than what it currently has.
 
Parks Canada, one of the main drivers of the national park initiative is holding an open house in Scarborough next week to engage with the community about its draft management plan.
 
But conservation groups — like Friends of the Rouge Watershed — believe the plan should be made in consistency and conjunction with existing provincial plans.
 
“We’re disappointed that they haven’t paid respect to the last 24 years of provincial public planning (of the park),” said Jim Robb, general manager of Friends of the Rouge Watershed.
 
“That’s an improper way to design a park for the people, you can’t ignore what people have already done for the last 24 years.”
 
Environmental Defence believes the current legislation lacks adequate measures to ensure ecological integrity. It believes this is partly due to existing development in the park.
 
Gray made reference to other national parks with existing development and that their ecology is still protected.
 
“Look at Banff, there’s a large town and ski hills in the middle of a national park,” Gray said. “In any national park, wouldn’t you want to prioritize nature?”
 
Environmental Defence and other conservation groups advocating stronger legislation for the transfer hope that “priority will be given to nature conservation” and that it needs to be “explicit” at the draft management planning.
 
The open house on the Rouge National Urban Park draft management plan will be at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 258 on 45 Lawson Rd. in Scarborough on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.