Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Evening ‘talking tour’ of new Rouge National Urban Park connecting 7-million people to nearby nature

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

October 4, 2013

All welcome to evening ‘talking tour’ of new Rouge National Urban Park connecting 7-million people to nearby nature

 by Pauline Donaldson

Photo 1 by Leslie BolPhoto 1: This green heron was photographed in a duckweed-filled pond in September in the new Rouge National Urban Park, near Toronto. Next week, John Meek of Parks Canada will be in Almonte to talk about the potential of this new National Urban Park, a 10,000-acre ‘near-urban wilderness’ in close proximity to nearly 7-million city dwellers. Photo by Leslie Bol.

The short days of Fall are here and cooler evenings are ideal for exploring nature on a ‘virtual tour’ from the warmth of the Almonte United Church indoor ‘classroom.’ There you can attend one of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) public talks in the series “Knowing and Caring Connects us with Nature.” Strong connections with nature offer many benefits to us as humans. Strong connections also make us more knowledgeable about the natural world, and the more we know about it, the more we will care about it and help to preserve it. For many, this means simply having better access to nearby wild spaces.

On Thursday October 17, 2013 we will take a virtual tour of Ontario’s new officially protected space, a10,000-acre ‘near-urban wilderness’ park which will offer nearly 7 million city dwellers, including many new Canadians, a chance to connect with nature just bus stop/s away from home. John Meek, Heritage Planner with Parks Canada will present “Canada’s First: A National Urban Park in the Rouge Valley about Canada’s first Urban National Park, Rouge National Urban Park in east Toronto and Markham, Ontario. The Park is still in the establishment phase, but the vision is for Rouge Park to be: “… a special place of outstanding natural features and diverse cultural heritage in an urban-rural setting, protected and flourishing as an ecosystem in perpetuity. . . . a sanctuary for nature and the human spirit.”

Large and biologically diverse, Rouge National Urban Park will stretch from Lake Ontario in the south to the Oak Ridges Moraine in the north. Its creation is a result of multilateral planning and inclusion of federal and provincial lands, city parks, private land including working farms, etc. into the park. To date, about 2/3rd of the Park is in public ownership, Since the Rouge will be a National Urban Park, not a National Park, it will not be held to the same conservation standards as other National Parks. What natural values are there though will now be carefully managed and protected for generations to come. Parks Canada would like to use Rouge National Urban Park to showcase all National Parks in Canada and share the wilderness experience with all Canadians.

City dwellers, young and old, new to Canada, or visiting Toronto from anywhere in Canada or the world will have a place to go to see century old trees, meadows, marshes, lakeside beaches and other protected natural features. They will have the opportunity to engage in leisure and recreational activities there, take guided tours, learn from staff, help with ecological restoration, and observe sustainable farming that will go on in lands within the Park.

Indeed excitement is building for the great potential this park has. On September 14-15, the largest Bioblitz in the world was held in the park! The Royal Ontario Museum, the Toronto Zoo, Ontario Nature and conservation authorities collaborated with ‘citizen scientists’ to document all the life they could find in the park in 24 hours. The goal, in part, was “…inspiring participants to become champions for wild species and spaces across the Province.”

If you went to the Rouge National Urban Park, how would you choose to connect with nature? Perhaps relax in the sanctuary under a large tree? Visit to paint nature or paint in nature? Or an invigorating paddle on the Rouge? Perhaps help monitor species in the park? Attend this October MVFN talk to find out from Parks Canada, John Meek what possibilities there will be in Rouge Park, for all who visit, to connect with nature and learn. Also, find out what natural features are being protected for future generations with the establishment of this Park, the wildlife corridors, the rivers, the watersheds, the wildlife, and the habitats, including Lake Ontario coastal wetlands and more. The presentation “Canada’s First: A National Urban Park in the Rouge Valley, will take place at 7:30 pm, Thursday October 17, 2013 at the Almonte United Church social hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members) and refreshments are provided. For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.