GTA's Rouge Park to become first 'urban national park'
Ten thousand acres of forests, creeks and meadowlands in the GTA will become Canada's first "urban national park".
The 47-square-kilometre Rouge Park, located between Scarborough and Pickering, will be taken over by Parks Canada, according to Friday's throne speech.
The area, which is 13 times bigger than Central Park in New York City, includes a lakefront beach, campground sites, over 16 kilometres of hiking trails, wetlands, and thousands of plant and animal species.
"It's so back to nature. You see the marsh here, the birds here, and it's kind of remote and desolate so it's not very crowded," said park hiker Ray Berzins.
Environmentalists have lobbied against development in the Rouge Valley area for years and they hope the new designation will encourage more visitors to explore the park.
The cost or length of time to transfer the area to Parks Canada could take up to two years. Currently, more than 12 government organizations and one non-profit group manage the space.
"(Parks Canada) brings resources that we don't have, like park wardens to stop poachers and to keep the trails safe. The trails need a lot of maintenance, so it's bigger than the City of Toronto can manage," said Alan Wells, the chair of the Rouge Park Alliance.
"All Canadians should be proud of our national park system, and to have them running this park here would be good for the people here and good for Parks Canada," said Wells.
With files from CTV Toronto's Scott Lightfoot.