Friends of the Rouge Watershed Logo

History - Rouge Park

MPP Alvin Curling speaks at an
environmental event in 1990 with former
Premier David Peterson, Jim Bradley and
other MPPs looking on.

On March 26, 1990, Premier David Peterson visited the Finch Meander to announce the Ontario Government’s intention to establish a Rouge Park stretching from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine along the Rouge River system.

After the 1990 Rouge Park announcement, the Province appointed a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to develop a recommended park plan. The Rouge Park Management Plan was approved by Cabinet and released by the Ministry of Natural Resources in May 1994.

The creation of the Rouge Park is the result of:

  • years of public awareness and involvement work by SRVS;
  • tireless efforts by dozens of volunteers such as Lois James;
  • support from many Community Associations (e.g. COSCA);
  • support from thousands of citizens who wrote letters and attended meetings;
  • support from a broad coalition of environmental organizations including FON and WWF;
  • leadership from Mayor Joyce Trimmer, Hon. Pauline Browes and other politicians.

The extensive rivers, valleys and tablelands of the Rouge provide a unique opportunity for a continuous wooded corridor linking Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine. The Rouge Park is home to an exceptional diversity of wildlife – at least 762 species of plants, 123 breeding bird species, 55 fish species, 27 mammal species and 19 reptiles and amphibians species. This species diversity would be considered remarkable anywhere in Canada but it is particularly outstanding because it exists within the GTA, Canada's most populous area.

Map showing the Rouge Park shortly after its formation with other
natural and agricultural areas that have direct impact on the health
of the Rouge and Duffin's Watersheds.

The Rouge Park Plan establishes the following park vision:

The Rouge Park will 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. Human activities will exist in harmony with the natural values of the Park. The Park will be a sanctuary for nature and the human spirit.

With recommendations from the Hon. David Crombie, a Rouge Park Alliance was established to lead and oversee the Park’s evolution. The Rouge Park Alliance is a cooperative partnership between local, regional, provincial and federal government officials and SRVS.

The Rouge Park was officially launched in April 1995. It is the largest park ever created within an urban area in North America and will comprise at least several thousand hectares when completed.

The establishment of the Rouge Park is far from completion. The Management Plan for the Park between Steeles Avenue and the Oak Ridges Moraine was completed in 2001. However, the protection of Rouge parklands in Markham, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch Stouffville has lagged behind the pace of development and water quality, streamflow, biodiversity and ecosystem health are still in jeopardy.

In 2003, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority began a two-year project to develop a Rouge River Watershed strategy. The outcome of this study will have a significant effect on the health of the Rouge River system and Park.

Renewed provincial and federal leadership, better watershed planning legislation and policies, better funding for land acquisition and restoration, and better municipal planning, will all be necessary to restore the health of the Rouge River system and achieve the remarkable Rouge Park vision.