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Rouge North Management Plan

The Rouge North Management Plan areas
in Markham are outlined on this map.
Click to enlarge.

Between 1997 and 2002, the Town of Markham and the Rouge Park developed the Rouge North Management Plan through a broad consultation process. The Plan is intended to provide a blueprint for the establishment of the Rouge Park from Steeles Avenue to the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The Plan identifies a number of progressive ecological criteria for determining the Rouge Park North boundary. However, the creation of the Rouge Park North presents challenges because of land speculation and development pressures on the private lands bordering many Rouge streams in Markham, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch Stouffville.

Ecological Criteria

One of the advances of the Plan is the development of ecological criteria that are intended to help planners delineate the Rouge Park boundary. Although the objectives and ecological criteria of the Plan represent an advance in land use planning, they suffer from serious limitations, including:

  • they do not address the watershed issues necessary to protect water quality and stream flow stability, such as maximum percentage of impermeable surfaces and desired forest cover percentages per sub-watershed;
  • they are based on information and science which is subject to aggressive challenge by deep-pocketed land speculators and developers;
  • they are not being applied to new developments within Markham’s Urban Services Area, an area which represents almost 1/3 of the overall Rouge watershed;
  • they are dependent on the status-quo land use planning system which is responsible for deteriorating water quality, stream health and landscape integrity;
  • they do not have any legal force until they are adopted into Municipal Official Plans and municipal planners and politicians tend to water them down in response to pressure from developers and land speculators;
  • as of January 2004, they have not been adopted into the Official Plans of Richmond Hill and Whitchurch Stouffville and the Ontario Municipal Board has not respected them.

The Rouge North Management Plan provides valuable information, analyses and direction for the implementation of the Rouge Park north of Steeles. However, it is a weak policy document that will require substantial strengthening to protect the health of the Rouge River system and achieve the Rouge Park vision.

The Rouge North Management Plan needs to be bolstered by:

  • the completion and adoption of an overall watershed strategy which addresses issues of water budgets, stream base flow, water quality and quantity, percent forest cover, landscape connectivity, biodiversity and carrying capacity;
  • the creation of a $15 million/year fund, from a combination of all levels of government and the private sector, to acquire and reforest important Rouge Park lands;
  • the designation of the Rouge Park planning area as a provincially significant area which receives a high level of protection under the Planning Act;
  • the development of strategic plans, funding and milestones, to achieve a minimum of 30% forest and wetland area within the sub-watersheds of the Rouge River.