Under normal circumstances, awards are given to individuals or small groups. CWF has taken a different tack with this year’s Past Presidents’ Canadian Legislator Award. It’s recognizing a large group of people — specifically, Canada’s parliamentarians — for their commitment to the creation of the Rouge National Urban Park, the first national urban park in Canada.
Although the Rouge Valley had already been recognized as a provincial park, local naturalists have been lobbying for federal status for several years. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Environment Minister Peter Kent answered their efforts in May of last year with the announcement that the federal government will spend more than $140 million over the next 10 years to develop the park and, after that, provide operating funds to the tune of $7.6 million annually.
Rouge National Urban Park is a unique natural asset. Covering some 50 square kilometres — about 15 times the area of Central Park in New York City — it runs from the Oak Ridges Moraine, north of Toronto, to Lake Ontario. Home to 17 federally endangered species (as well as hundreds more), it is a prime example of Carolinian forest habitat, which is rare in Canada.
Best of all, the new park can be reached by public transit and sits in the backyard of some seven million Canadians, creating an unprecedented opportunity for people to explore the natural world and deepen their appreciation of it.