Municipalities are allowing developers
to butcher Rouge streams
damaging watershed and Park health.
In the absence of effective provincial laws and policies to protect the Rouge Park, municipal plans are determining how, or if, the Rouge Park vision will be implemented.
A good example of this reality is Markham Council's September 2003 approval of an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) intended to give legal force to the Rouge North Management Plan (RNMP).
The RNMP was developed between 1997 and 2002 to guide the establishment of the Rouge Park in York Region. Although, it is a compromise between development and conservation interests, the RNMP contains some good objectives, policies and management guidelines.
The Town of Markham endorsed the Rouge North Management Plan in July 2001 as the basis for a subsequent amendment to Markham's Official Plan. Unfortunately, Markham approved an Official Plan Amendment that is inconsistent with the endorsed RNMP and the protection of the Rouge Park. Among the inconsistencies:
Markham, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch
Stouffville are allowing development too
close to sensitive Rouge headwater streams.
Map of the Rouge North OPA.
Click to enlarge.
- Markham's Rouge North OPA avoids the application of the ecological criteria within the large yellow urban area (30% of the Rouge watershed) on the adjacent Map, contrary to the RNMP;
- Markham's OPA is silent on the need to evaluate all Rouge streams for possible inclusion within the Rouge Park, contrary to section 2.4.4 of the RNMP, and,
- Markham's Rouge North OPA does not require the completion of, and adherence to, a watershed strategy and water budget prior to the consideration of further urban area expansions, contrary to the recommendations of the Conservation Authority and the Rouge Park Alliance.
By failing to require the application of the "ecological criteria" within the existing urban boundary, Markham has condemned 30% of the Rouge River Watershed to the continued use of out-dated and ineffective standards for water quality and watershed protection.
The consequences of Markham's weak Rouge North Official Plan Amendment include:
- huge future costs to fix pollution and erosion problems that could have been avoided;
- less greenspace, woodlands and environmental amenities for Markham residents;
- more pollution entering streams and fouling Lake Ontario and our drinking water;
- more urban sprawl, gridlock and air pollution;
- reduced quality of life and health in the GTA.
The establishment of a healthy and sustainable Rouge Park will require greater leadership and protection from the province, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, federal government and municipalities.
Together, they must create laws and policies to protect the Rouge Park and watershed from unwise development and they must allocate funding to acquire land and restore forest cover to more than 30% of the Rouge watershed.