National park will boost business

A land once supposed to be a garbage dump, highway, and subdivision is slated to revitalize the economy of GTA’s eastern reaches as Canada’s first near-urban national park.

Rouge Park, which borders Scarborough, Pickering, and Markham, is to be expanded into a 15,000-acre wilderness, befitting national park standards through the federal government’s help.

It will be the first national park to sit so close to an urban population.

“The Rouge would be really accessible,” said Glen De Baeremaeker, Scarborough Centre councillor and Rouge Park Alliance member. “In fact, I am afraid that too many people will show up.”

De Baeremaeker predicted these visitors would be looking to rent overnight accommodations and purchase more food and gas.

Rouge Park Alliance chair Allan Wells says these needs will be answered by the future creation of small businesses in the park’s surrounding area.

“There’s lots of room for business expansion,” Wells said. “I imagine that there will be more restaurants and shops once the park is completed.”

Environment Minister Peter Kent agreed, saying that the park will be “taking a look at places where small business opportunities might exist.”

Kent added Parks Canada itself would also be providing a variety of commercial services inside the Rouge.

“On top of new businesses, we will offer services like transit, food, educational and interpretive centres, and a network of man-made trails,” he said.

According to him, these will ultimately lead to more job opportunities.

“I’m not sure how many years of employment, but it will provide continuing work like operating, cleaning up, and rehabilitation, for example,” Kent said.

De Baeremaeker envisions proposals for more visible staff and new services will “make people talk more about our country.”

Kent says Rouge Park will encourage city residents to enjoy nature and act as a springboard for other national parks.

“It will showcase and encourage people to visit more distant parks like Banff, Bruce Peninsula, and Cape Breton,” he said.

Canada’s national parks currently generate around $3 billion for the economy.

Kent said the Rouge will be another great investment.

“We reviewed the park’s financial needs and maintenance, and decided that being part of Parks Canada is our best option,” Wells said.

Kent estimated that renovation will take five to 10 years to complete, while the Rouge Valley Alliance said capital costs for the project might be from $80 million to $100 million.

Kent also announced the federal government is currently accumulating land that will make up the national park, whose rough boundaries will likely be finalized by fall.