A family road trip to see nature at Rouge National Urban Park near the Toronto Zoo just got more expensive.
Parks Canada has introduced paid parking at a cost of $12.95 per day at the Zoo Road day-use area, the gateway to a chain of man-made wetlands and the north end of the Mast Trail, the park trail south in the Red River Valley.
The federal agency says the parking pilot, which began Aug. 1 and will run through Nov. 30, will be “help manage parking and maintain sustainable visitor use.”
Visitors can pay the fee — $4 per hour or $12.60 per day plus a 35-cent transaction fee — with a mobile app, QR code, or machine on the site.
Other park lots are free at this time, but Parks Canada has closed its Twyn Rivers Drive parking lot for construction this summer.
Across Meadowvale Road from the zoo’s main entrance, the day-use area was for many years a place where park visitors parked informally.
This part of Meadowvale to the park gate is between overflow lots for the zoo, but these were rarely used for paid parking.
Sarah Simpson, spokeswoman for Parks Canada, said parking along the road was leading to “illegal and unsafe parking” in the area, as well as “frustration for visitors and additional burdens for staff”.
“Paid parking will help mitigate these impacts by providing clear and demarcated parking spaces, as well as increased monitoring and enforcement to deter visitors from parking illegally,” Simpson added last month in a written response to questions. .
She noted that the $12.95 fee is similar to the zoo’s parking fee, which in 2020 went from $12 to $14.
Volunteers who organize guided walks and other activities in the area will receive a temporary parking permit, Simpson said.
Parks Canada encourages people to give feedback on the pilot project on feedback formssaying it will inform future decisions about paid parking in all areas of the park.
The agency hopes transportation options, including a free Parkbus shuttle from downtown Toronto, bicycling and increased regional transit service in the area may provide alternatives to parking vehicles in the area.
In the meantime, work is underway to reshape the Twyn Rivers land with 83 demarcated spaces and move it away from the Little Rouge River.
Two accessible parking spaces will be added next to a new washroom facility, and a painted footpath through the grounds will lead to a new crosswalk on Twyn Rivers Drive, making trail access safer for visitors .
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Parks Canada said.