Rouge National Urban Park Visitor, Learning and Community Centre Project
To create a visitor hub with multi-purpose gathering spaces and visitor amenities which will function as an iconic gateway to both Rouge National Urban Park (RNUP) and Parks Canada. This ‘gateway’ will feature an aesthetically and environmentally progressive, universally accessible building along with an outdoor programmable event space with a learning focus on Indigenous, natural, cultural and agricultural heritage through integrated interpretive installations and design elements. The visitor, learning and community centre will welcome park visitors, youth groups and community members and anchor Parks Canada’s presence in Canada’s largest metropolitan area.
The visitor, learning and community centre will be located across the street from the Toronto Zoo, on the east side of Meadowvale Road, in and around a former overflow parking lot. This area is located next to public transportation (TTC and Durham Region Transit), Highway 401, and the future Meadoway, a 16 km linear trail connecting the Don and Rouge valleys. The location was announced in 2019, the culmination of a five-year search, two feasibility studies and significant public, Indigenous and community engagement.
The site includes the parking area, grassy areas, granular pathways, and some mature trees, including a significant forested strip that runs east-west across the site. The site is bounded on the north side by Zoo Road, which is owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and leased to the Toronto Zoo, and on the west side by an access road for the ZooShare Biogas plant. The plant itself is located south of the project site. East of the site is a forested area that slopes down to the Little Rouge River.
Several Rouge National Urban Park trails are located in the surrounding area, including the Vista Trail, which passes through the project site. A heavily frequented, two-level wooden observation platform with views of the Rouge Valley is located along the Vista Trail a few minutes from the project site. Zoo Road is used to access additional trails, including the Beare Wetlands Loop/Cedar Trail and the Orchard Trail. As a major trail intersection, this site often used is a popular venue for RNUP events, including WinterRouge, Earth Run and Rouge After Dark. The site is also accessible by public transit (TTC and Durham Region).
Significance to Rouge National Urban Park
The creation of a new national park—let alone a new model of protected area—is a long-term endeavour. Rouge National Urban Park exists today because of the tireless efforts of many dedicated citizens, organizations, governments and Indigenous partners over many years to protect and manage this remarkable landscape. Similarly, achieving the vision for the park will be a long-term undertaking.
The Rouge National Urban Park Management Plan issued in 2019 is a foundational document. It encompasses a period of heightened activity in the park’s formative years—the transfers of land administration to Parks Canada; the building of long-term relationships with Indigenous partners, the park farming community, volunteers, visitors, other governments and countless others; the initiation of resource conservation and ecological restoration programs and cultural heritage research; the construction of many visitor facilities; and the continued development of the park’s management organization.
By the end of the management plan’s ten-year implementation period, the park will be transformed in many tangible ways.
Building the Rouge National Urban Park Visitor, learning and community centre is a foundational piece of meeting many of the objectives of the Park Management Plan.
· Rouge National Park Management Plan 2019
This new facility will serve as the park’s primary learning and orientation facility where visitors, students and residents can gather and learn about the Rouge’s incredible natural, cultural, agricultural and Indigenous heritage, as well as Parks Canada’s network of protected areas from coast to coast to coast.
This facility will feature environmentally sustainable design, enhanced accessibility, and significant collaboration with the RNUP First Nations Advisory Circle and community partners like the Friends of Rouge National Urban Park and park farmers.
The building will be net-zero carbon, in alignment with the Greening Government Strategy commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, and the project will be subject to rigorous environmental review. A Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) process will also be applied throughout the project design.
Currently in the planning stages, the public will have significant opportunities to provide feedback on the building concept and site plan in the coming months.
*For Design Concept Images see right beside this Backgrounder*
Contracts awarded late December 2020 via a competitive open bidding process on BuyandSell.ca.
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