For Alan and Dianne Doucette, hikes in the Rouge Valley have become a tradition.
The couple comes three to four days a week to take in the sights around the park. They’ve been doing this for 20 years, but Alan says they’re not at all bored.
“We want to learn more about the trails, so after doing it for 20 years we’re not bored with it, but we want some new stuff,” he says.
After seeing first-hand a few of the animals around the valley, Dianne and Alan now want to learn about them.
That’s why the Eco Exploration event, organized by the Rouge Valley Conservation Centre was a perfect opportunity for all nature lovers.
It took place Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Rouge Valley. Hikers were invited to discover the hidden riches the valley has to offer, such as the innate birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants.
Some ventured out on their own, while others joined small guided hiking groups.
The four-kilometre trail around the park included nine eco stations where experts from various environmental groups were stationed, ready to share their knowledge of the park’s fauna and flora with the hikers.
But Rouge Park is more than just beautiful landscapes brimming with foxes, snakes, birds and bees.
“The park also has a lot of the regular things that a regular park has in terms of visitor experience such as trails, we have a campground, we have fishing, we have a beach,” said Sheryl Santos, stewardship coordinator for Rouge Park.
“The founders of Citizen Scientists, which has been running since 2001, along with other environmental groups, decided to fundraise and have this event,” said Susan Tsin, a volunteer with Citizen Scientists.
The money raised through hikers’ donations will not only help the conservation centre, but also the educational programs it runs. For example, during the summer monitoring is done on the species of plants, fish and insects in the area.
More than 47 square km in size, Rouge Park is the largest park in Toronto and, according to its website, is 13 times bigger than New York’s famous Central Park.
In 1995, it was declared protected land to ensure the survival of all ecosystems enclosed within it.
“We came out years ago and there were developers trying to take over part of this place and I thought, ‘It’s a real sacrilege’, we have to keep this for people; the next generation,” Alan Doucette said.
“I’ve often said that if I won the lotto I’d definitely put some money toward this place because it’s part of our lives.”
For upcoming events, visit the Rouge Valley Conservation website at rvcc.ca.