Detailed Impact Assessment
Rouge National Urban Park
Parks Canada sincerely thanks all those who took the time to comment and share their opinions, ideas and suggestions to improve the long-term ecological health, accessibility and sustainable management of the Rouge Beach and Marsh.
The Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA) for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project has been finalized and approved. Read more about the public review process below, including a summary of feedback received and changes made to the DIA as a result.
Detailed Impact Assessment
Parks Canada has a robust framework in place for environmental assessment of projects. The Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA) is the most comprehensive form of environmental regulatory review undertaken by Parks Canada.
A DIA report considers the potential effects on naturally and culturally valued components; it also identifies the mitigation measures to be put in place to eliminate, reduce and compensate for any potential adverse effects, including potential residual impacts. Beyond the standard mitigation measures that are typically implemented, the DIA process allows for the development of targeted location-specific strategies designed for the unique considerations of the site, including post-project monitoring to ensure measures succeed in the long-term.
The DIA for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project demonstrates that the project will enhance and further protect the natural and cultural integrity of Rouge National Urban Park and foster meaningful connections to its beauty and rich history.
Public review period
The Detailed Impact Assessment (DIA) public review comprises one aspect of Parks Canada’s public engagement efforts for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project. A draft DIA was produced and made available to the public for review for a 30-day period ending on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. During the draft DIA’s public review period, Parks Canada received almost 200 comments from individuals and community groups, as well as non-profit and regional government organizations.
For the past year, Parks Canada team members have been compiling and reviewing these comments, responding to questions, seeking supporting data and updating and improving the DIA to reflect the valuable feedback received. In response to the almost 200 comments received, the DIA has undergone substantive changes to maximize mitigation and minimize impacts.
Public perspectives on the project
Prior to the release of the draft DIA and the public review period, Parks Canada undertook a 15-month community and public engagement program from February 1, 2020, to May 1, 2021, seeking feedback on the proposed concept for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project. During this engagement period, Parks Canada held dozens of meetings, walks, phone calls, workshops and videoconferences, leading to nearly 300 interactions with individuals and small groups. In addition to this, more than 200 people participated in three virtual community workshops held in April and May 2021. A summary of this engagement can be found in Parks Canada’s What We Heard Report. Through these processes, Parks Canada received feedback from many residents, community members and groups, Indigenous partners and organizations that have shown great interest in this project.
In general, there is strong support to see the Rouge Beach and Marsh protected and restored and for Parks Canada to improve accessibility. This project is broadly supported by partners, including Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle members, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park.
The Waterfront Regeneration Trust and the Friends of the Rouge National Urban Park described the DIA as “a comprehensive study that strongly validates the Project’s contribution to improving and restoring the ecological integrity of the Rouge Beach and Marsh. It demonstrates Parks Canada’s commitment to and experience in protecting and restoring our nation’s treasured natural places.”
Following an independent review of the DIA, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) provided support for the project. The TRCA will continue to advise Parks Canada through the final design and implementation phases of the project.
In addition to public engagement, Parks Canada undertook a parallel multi-year engagement process with Indigenous partners through the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle. The feedback Parks Canada received from Advisory Circle members was positive and broadly supportive of the project's objectives. There was interest in future interpretation opportunities with Indigenous partners to share and showcase their stories and for Parks Canada to present the cultural heritage of the area, which could be achieved through guided and Indigenous-led walks, special programming and events, or through signage and non-personal media. There was also concern expressed over a range of issues, including current environmental threats in the area like trampling, erosion, pollution and dumping, as well as perceived threats to natural and cultural heritage, resulting in broad support expressed for the project’s environmental and restoration goals.
Some comments from local residents and park users expressed a keen desire for the project to get underway without delay to protect the marsh and regulate public use. Comments also celebrated such aspects as improving trail connectivity within the park to the lake and waterfront, increased accessibility as well as the restoration and re-naturalization of essential habitat for the hundreds of species of birds and aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.
Responses to expressed concerns
In its review of the comments received during the 30-day DIA review period, Parks Canada recorded many concerns, questions and suggestions, corresponding to the following aspects of the Rouge Beach Improvement Project:
- Potential impacts to wetlands and wildlife
- Technical feasibility of building a boardwalk in a floodplain
- Impacts of climate change and long-term sustainability of a boardwalk
- How project components protect and uphold floodplain policy
- Long-term shoreline erosion protection
- Parking, congestion and the management of a high level of visitors
A large proportion of comments from community groups and individuals expressed concern over potential impacts the proposed project could have on the wetland, which is currently showing signs of stress from trampling and urban encroachment.
Parks Canada listened to and studied these concerns and takes all constructive feedback seriously. Parks Canada’s first priority is the protection of ecological integrity, and the project is designed to mitigate the effects of decades of unfettered access and use. The Agency’s team of biologists, archaeologists and project coordinators have worked diligently over the past year to incorporate public feedback and address concerns by making substantial changes, improvements and clarifications to the updated DIA.
Wetland impacts have been carefully evaluated and considered in the design and routing of the bridges and boardwalk portion of the new trail. The proposed project will include improvements to the ecological integrity of this area by:
- Restoring and improving degraded wetlands and associated riparian habitat that supports key species, including sensitive species at risk;
- Reducing the overall human footprint in the area by directing visitors along a single trail with sections of boardwalk raised above the landscape and designed to effectively manage the high visitation levels at this location;
- Enabling visitors to access unique natural areas without disturbing the flow of water, the movement of wildlife, the growth of sensitive vegetation or the functioning of other ecological processes;
- Closing and re-naturalization of informal, trails in the coming years to ensure visitor use is regulated to appropriate levels and locations and reduce negative impacts to vegetation, wildlife and species at risk;
- Decommissioning and re-naturalizing the lower beach parking lot, located within the floodplain and currently contributing to the release of run-off into the sensitive wetland ecosystem;
- Planting native vegetation including cattails to improve habitat for wildlife, increasing flood resiliency in the marsh basin and decreasing riparian erosion.
Further mitigation measures in the project design informed by public feedback include:
- Incorporation of under-passages at strategic “pinch points” to allow for the migration of wildlife;
- Use of timber mats instead of gravel for access roads and staging areas to minimize compaction;
- Improvements to construction methods to minimize impacts, such as ruling out the option of using a swinging crane to move concrete across aquatic habitats;
- Examination of alternative approaches to the installation of bridge abutments.
Creating resilient and durable infrastructure capable of sustaining long-term visitor use while reducing the overall human footprint in the area remains a primary objective of this project. Many of the changes and improvements to the DIA reflect this enduring priority.
Ultimately, the Rouge Beach Improvements Project will provide a positive overall benefit, restoring and connecting ecosystems while ensuring visitors have access to nature through the Rouge River and Marsh. For every square metre of new infrastructure built, Parks Canada will restore four square metres of highly degraded wetland and forest habitat, greatly reducing the human footprint in the area.
Summary of key changes
In response to the almost 200 comments received, the DIA has undergone substantive changes to maximize mitigation and minimize impacts.
Parks Canada is pleased to share the following examples of feedback incorporated into and clarified in the DIA as well as priority considerations identified for the future:
- Parks Canada has clarified how the Rouge Beach Improvements Project will provide a positive overall benefit, restoring and connecting ecosystems while ensuring visitors have access to nature through the Rouge River and Marsh. For every square metre of new infrastructure built, Parks Canada will restore four square metres of highly degraded wetland and forest habitat, greatly reducing the human footprint in the area.
- The design will comply with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) A460:1 9 Bird-Friendly Building Design;
- The DIA and project specifications will be updated to include the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s Clean Equipment Protocol; during construction, environmental surveillance officers will monitor the work to ensure the protocols are followed;
- Large timber matting rather than gravel will be used to help mitigate compaction along the temporary road to access the middle bridge installation as advised by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry;
- Parks Canada will work with the local community to determine hours of operation for Rouge Beach and Marsh, particularly the boardwalk component;
- The incorporation of additional habitat structures into the washroom building will be considered and designed in consultation with species at risk subject matter experts;
- The follow-up period for the monitoring of invasive species will occur at three year intervals instead of every five years, as advised by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
Notice of Determination
A notice of determination has been issued by Parks Canada under the Impact Assessment Act. Following an extensive assessment of the proposed project, it has been determined that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
To request a copy of the final version of the DIA and supporting document summarizing Parks Canada’s review of public feedback and all changes made to the DIA as a result, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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