Conservationists were in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 31, afternoon to tell MPs the proposed national urban park in the Rouge Valley is “a substandard version” of what they and thousands of volunteers fought for decades to achieve.
Leaders of Friends of the Rouge Watershed said they would argue before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development that Parks Canada’s “study area” for the Rouge is too small and its protection for the Rouge Valley’s fragile Carolinian and mixed woodland ecology seems weaker than in plans for the existing Rouge Park.
In a letter to Environment Minister Peter Kent, the group also suggested broader public interests in the park were being “sacrificed to address local private and political interests” which included those of “a few dozen residential and agricultural tenants” which lease about 70 per cent of public lands in the current park.
Those leases “are far less than the fair market rate” and do not cover the upkeep of the properties, FRW General Manager Jim Robb and President Kevin O’Connor told Kent.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Environmental Defence have joined FRW in writing to Kent to ask that all public lands protected under Ontario’s Greenbelt, about 100 square kilometres including the federal Pickering airport lands be included in a federal Rouge Park, instead of just the 57 square kilometres in the study area.
Parks Canada has said its concept for a national urban park is first of its kind and will need its own standards for environmental protection, which will be written as part of a management plan.
Unlike in national parks, agriculture in the future Rouge Park would continue, and public infrastructure, private lands, the Toronto Zoo and most land the City of Toronto now owns would be excluded from the park.…