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, will 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 that sits extremely near an urban population.
“The Rouge would be really accessible,” said Glen De Baeremaeker, Councillor Ward 38 Scarborough Centre 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.
View Rouge Park in a larger map
“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 they will be “taking a look at places where small business opportunities might exist.”
He added that 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 that proposals for more visible staff and new services will “make people talk more about our country.”
Kent says Rouge Park will encourage city folks 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,” Kent said.
Canada’s national parks currently generate around $3 billion for the economy and Kent said the Rouge will be another great investment.
Rouge Valley Alliance estimated that renovation will take between five and 10 years to complete. The capital costs for the project will amount anywhere from $80–$100 million.
“We reviewed the park’s financial needs and maintenance and decided that being part of Parks Canada is our best option,” Wells said.
Kent is expected to reveal more details about the park on April 11 during a speech at Toronto’s Albany Club.