Rouge National Urban Park
Thank you for sharing your feedback!
The What We Heard Report is now available for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project, summarizing 15 months of public engagement.
The comment period for the Detailed Impact Assessment is now closed. All feedback received is currently being reviewed and considered by Parks Canada for inclusion in the final DIA. A report will be released soon that will summarize the public comments received, and an indication of the design changes made as a result. Once finalized, the public may request a final version of the DIA by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parks Canada sincerely thanks all those who took the time to comment and share their opinions, ideas, and suggestions about the proposed improvements to the area.
Enhancements to the Rouge Beach and Marsh Area of Rouge National Urban Park
The Rouge Beach Improvements Project (RBIP) will enhance and further protect the natural and cultural integrity of the Rouge Beach and Marsh area and foster meaningful connections to its beauty and rich history. The initiative will:
- mitigate the impacts of climate change, flooding and erosion;
- improve visitor safety, inclusivity, stewardship and connectivity for all visitors and residents;
- restore ecosystems and improve ecological integrity; and
- respect the rights of neighbouring ravine property owners and residential communities.
Parks Canada is working with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the Rouge National Urban Park First Nations Advisory Circle and many other organizations, community groups and partners on this important project.
A key goal of the project is to help maintain community access to this unique waterfront environment. Parks Canada will achieve this by saving, refurbishing, restoring and flood-proofing park infrastructure and landscapes currently at risk due to extreme flooding events and erosion at this location, including safeguarding the main beach access area at Lawrence Avenue and Rouge Hills Drive.
The project will also formalize an up to 2.5 km trail connection with handrail and boardwalk components from Lake Ontario to the Mast Trail to help improve visitor safety and in-park connections. Formalizing this trail will help improve community connections, prevent trampling on sensitive vegetation, and overcome the present situation where pedestrians currently wishing to connect from the beach to the Mast Trail must leave the park and negotiate crossing two dangerous Highway 401 on-ramps without the aid of a sidewalk or signalized crossing.
A defining feature of the Rouge Beach Improvements Project will be enhancements to the park’s ecological integrity through significant inland marsh and aquatic habitat restoration, removal of invasive species, creation of habitat for species-at-risk, planting of thousands of trees and shrubs, the addition of wildlife crossings and passages, and by limiting and reducing the ecological footprint of the marsh area.
Other planned improvements include upgrades to the day use areas at both Rouge Beach and the Mast Trail trailhead, including a new washroom facility at the beach.
This project was first introduced to the public in 2012 when the initiative to create Rouge National Urban Park was launched, as well as at public meetings throughout the fall of 2014 and the fall of 2016, and via the Rouge National Urban Park Management Plan released in 2019, where Parks Canada committed to providing a contiguous and in-park trail connection from Lake Ontario to the Mast Trail. The management plan encompassed feedback from over 20,000 Canadians and more than 200 organizations.
Over a 15-month period, from February 1, 2020, to May 1, 2021, Parks Canada led an extensive public engagement program seeking feedback on the proposed concept for the Rouge Beach Improvements Project in Rouge National Urban Park. Throughout the engagement period, Parks Canada held dozens of meetings, walks, phone calls, workshops and videoconferences, leading to nearly 300 interactions with hundreds of 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. In addition to significant community engagement and co-design, Parks Canada completed a Detailed Impact Analysis (DIA) – the highest standard of federal environmental impact analysis in the country – for this project.
4 Pillars of the Rouge Beach Improvements Project
Mitigate impacts of climate change, flooding and erosion
In recent years, the Rouge Beach lower parking lot and access road have experienced a number of significant flooding events, resulting in repeated closures during the summer season. Some of these closures have lasted over three months. The effects of these flood-related closures and increasing shoreline erosion have negatively impacted visitor safety and use, as well as existing infrastructure. These conditions pose a significant threat to the long-term operational sustainability of the beach area. Flooding has also caused environmental damage through parking lot oil and salt spillage seeping into the nearby marsh and wetland ecosystems. Proposed enhancements to the area include raising the lower day use area, including the access road, above the fluvial floodplain along with erosion mitigation efforts to protect existing assets and facilities. Parks Canada is also proposing to close the lower parking lot (where flooding has been most severe) and adding additional parking spots and a canoe drop zone at the upper parking lot to compensate. The lower parking lot would be restored to a more natural state.
Improve safety, inclusivity, stewardship and connectivity for all visitors and residents
Existing beach facilities and visitor amenities are out-of-date and in advanced states of disrepair and decay, resulting in an unwelcoming environment that has become host to an array of inappropriate uses such as illegal fires, partying and loitering. The lower parking lot at the Rouge Beach is the site of traffic congestion, safety concerns, accessibility barriers and vehicle/pedestrian conflict. Furthermore, due to the lack of in-park trail connectivity, pedestrians must cross two dangerous Highway 401 ramps or walk on streets without sidewalks in order to transit between all areas of the national park north of Rouge Beach. Proposed improvements to the day use area include a redesign and reformat of the upper and lower parking lots, a renovation of the beach washroom facility, a replacement of the sanitary lift station and line, the addition of a pedestrian plaza and boardwalk pier, and amenities to support an increased presence of Parks Canada law enforcement, compliance and education staff. Further management actions to improve behaviours in the area will include: more Parks Canada-led garbage and beach clean-ups; fines of up to $ 1 million for dumping and pollution; increased law enforcement presence; a new compliance team to monitor visitor use; targeted summertime evening enforcement to reduce and work towards eliminating illegal activities. Formalizing a trail connection, including the addition of boardwalk components, will also help to safely connect residents and visitors from the beach to other areas of the park.
Restore ecosystems and improve ecological integrity
The project includes considerable ecological restoration work within the beach and surrounding marsh area, such as invasive species management and removal, expanded fish habitat, garbage reduction, protection for species-at-risk, increased ecological monitoring efforts, and the addition of wildlife-proof waste management. The proposed raised boardwalk will also catalyze an incremental reduction and restoration of unofficial, or social, trails that currently provide access to and negatively impact sensitive marsh habitat through trampling, illegal harvesting, and inappropriate uses such as partying. The boardwalk trail will provide visitors with a low-impact option to experience the site in a way that is respectful of this ecologically sensitive area.
Respect rights of neighbouring community and ravine property owners
The Rouge Beach and Marsh function as a cherished community hub, loved and enjoyed by members of the West Rouge community to the west and the Pickering Rouge community to the east. Residents value this area as an extension of their backyards and are recognized as important allies in its stewardship. Parks Canada respects the rights of all community members and is committed to listening to and working in collaboration and in good faith with park communities to balance Parks Canada's diverse project objectives. Community feedback has been instrumental in helping Parks Canada to identify more favourable trail routes as well as operational considerations such as potentially putting in place community-friendly beach and trail operating hours.
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