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Exploring the urban oasis Rouge Park

A warm breeze ruffles through the upper reaches of old Carolinian forest, scattering dappled sunlight across the ground below. Bird songs resonate through the canopy, while underneath, a dusty trail stretches out into the greenery.

It’s hard to believe this natural oasis is 30 minutes from downtown Toronto. Eventually spanning more than 79 square kilometers from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge National Urban Park is Canada’s first national urban park. And right now, it’s booming.

OPG has been a proud sponsor of Rouge Park since 2010, funding education and outreach initiatives, trail rehabilitation and the construction of the Vista Trail viewing platform. The park is home to rare Carolinian forest, Indigenous and settler history, and some of the last working farms in Toronto. It also boasts a wealth of diverse species.

Vista Trail viewing platform, Rouge National Urban Park

“We have over 1,700 species of plants, animals, fungi, and insects in the park,” says Sheryl Santos, Partnering and Engagement Officer with Parks Canada.

“We’ve recorded all eight species of bat found in Ontario; you can see them flying and feeding over the wetlands in the evenings.”

All told, the park hosts 27 threatened and endangered species. Among them are Blanding’s and spotted turtles, which OPG has worked to preserve through its Earth Rangers partnership.

As she walks the trails, Santos often sees young families watching the skies, trying to catch a glimpse of birds and bats. “It’s really inspiring,” she says. “You see the kids jumping around when they’ve spotted something, and you can tell they’re learning.”

To help get more families out to the Rouge, OPG has partnered with Parks Canada and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for October’s Fall Walks Festival. The upcoming festival, which runs from Oct. 9 to 14, provides free guided walking tours and other programs.

“We’re hoping to get more first time visitors, because really, this is a national treasure. It’s a place all GTA residents should learn about and take pride in,” says McDadi.