In the absence of effective provincial laws and policies to protect the Rouge Park, municipal plans are determining how, or if, the Rouge Park vision will be implemented.
A good example of this reality is Markham Council's September 2003 approval of an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) intended to give legal force to the Rouge North Management Plan (RNMP).
The RNMP was developed between 1997 and 2002 to guide the establishment of the Rouge Park in York Region. Although, it is a compromise between development and conservation interests, the RNMP contains some good objectives, policies and management guidelines.
The Town of Markham endorsed the Rouge North Management Plan in July 2001 as the basis for a subsequent amendment to Markham's Official Plan. Unfortunately, Markham approved an Official Plan Amendment that is inconsistent with the endorsed RNMP and the protection of the Rouge Park. Among the inconsistencies:
Markham, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch
Stouffville are allowing development too
close to sensitive Rouge headwater streams.
Map of the Rouge North OPA.
Click to enlarge.
By failing to require the application of the "ecological criteria" within the existing urban boundary, Markham has condemned 30% of the Rouge River Watershed to the continued use of out-dated and ineffective standards for water quality and watershed protection.
The consequences of Markham's weak Rouge North Official Plan Amendment include:
The establishment of a healthy and sustainable Rouge Park will require greater leadership and protection from the province, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, federal government and municipalities.
Together, they must create laws and policies to protect the Rouge Park and watershed from unwise development and they must allocate funding to acquire land and restore forest cover to more than 30% of the Rouge watershed.