Expand Rouge National Urban Park by 10,000 acres, urge advocates in Ottawa

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Supporters of Rouge National Urban Park are calling on the federal government to add 10,000 more acres to the park by canceling plans for a Pickering, Ontario. airport.

Com. Glenn De Baeremaeker said on Wednesday that supporters of the park on the eastern outskirts of Toronto would like to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the move. He said supporters of the park include former Toronto mayor David Crombie.

“It took us decades to reach 20,000 acres. There is a piece of land left, where people are proposing to build the Pickering Airport, and we are asking the federal government to cancel the Pickering Airport and put all of the public land in the national park to make it a park. of 30,000 acres, ”he said.

“To have Toronto surrounded by a sea of ​​forests and a sea of ​​farms is a dream of mine. “

De Baeremaeker said he supports the planned changes to the park announced by the federal government last week.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the park’s priority will be ecological integrity under changes to the legislation that created the park. She also said the government would expand the park by about 17 square kilometers and allow longer-term leases, up to 30 years, for farms in the park.

“There is a lot of inertia. But it’s a new government. It’s a new day,” he said.

Anne Bell, director of conservation at Ontario Nature, a charity that works to protect species and wilderness, says the park is very important to Toronto’s ecological health.

“It’s absolutely vital. This river and watershed is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals. It connects the Oakridges Moraine to Lake Ontario. It provides these key natural features with a corridor along the Rouge, ”she said.

She said it has more than 700 species of plants, more than 200 species of birds, more than 50 species of fish and 19 species of reptiles and amphibians.

“It’s absolutely amazing. When you think it’s in the most developed and populated part of the province, and frankly the country, and we have managed to maintain this gem of nature,” he said. she declared.

“As we see the loss of farmland and natural areas in southern Ontario, we increasingly realize the value of a place like this. We need places to go for our own health, physical health, mental health, and spiritual health. We need places like this. where we can reconnect with something that’s bigger than ourselves. “

The federal government introduced changes to the park laws last Thursday in Parliament.

“If the changes are passed, that priority will be nature. Ecological integrity will be the priority of this park and this will guide managers in all their decisions, ”said Bell.

Land east of the park has been reserved since the 1960s for the Pickering Airport Project.

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