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Big idea: Escaping into Toronto’s urban wilderness

By Renee Tratch
Digital Writer, theweathernetwork.com
Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:30 PM

For many Torontonians summer vacation means packing up the camping gear and heading out into the great outdoors.

SEE ALSO: Swimming in safe waters

If you find yourself stuck in the city however, there is still a way to get your nature fix. In fact, it’s easy get from concrete jungle to urban wilderness without even leaving the GTA.

Make the first stop the future home of Canada’s newest national park. Last month, the Government of Canada tabled new legislation to create Rouge National Urban Park, a 43-square-kilometre nationally protected area on the eastern side of the GTA (current site of the Rouge Park).

The first of its kind in Canada, the soon-to-be federally-operated park will increase in size, extending to 19th Avenue from Lake Ontario, making it one of the largest metropolitan parks in the world. See how it compares to other green spaces:

For Parks Canada, the location provides an unprecedented opportunity since most national parks are located in more isolated areas.

“The location in the Greater Toronto Area will allow 20 per cent of the Canadian population to experience not only the nature, culture and agriculture of the Rouge but be able to be introduced to Canada’s nationally protected area system,” said Pam Veinotte, Parks Canada’s Field Unit Superintendent for the Rouge National Urban Park.

TUNE IN: Be sure to tune into The Weather Network on TV on Wednesday, July 16 as we'll reporting live from Rouge National Urban Park

As well, about 60 per cent of the landscape of the future national urban park will be working farms. “That doesn’t exist in any other nationally protected area,” said Ms. Veinotte.

Parks Canada hopes to connect more people to nature, especially new Canadians who may not have had the chance to experience a national park and its activities, such as hiking, canoeing or its learn-to-camp program.

For the next three months, Parks Canada is asking for public input on its draft management plan, a 10-year guiding document for the Rouge National Urban Park. You can let your voice be heard online or in-person at open houses across Toronto and the GTA. In the meantime, stay the night at the current Rouge Park. The Glen Rouge campground, operated by the Toronto Region Conservation Area (TRCA), is easily reachable from highways and a short walk from public transit. The TRCA also operates family-friendly campgrounds Indian Line and Albion Hills in the Toronto-area. The latter, located in Bolton, is Ontario’s first and oldest conservation area for outdoor activities with its 446 hectares and trails in Caledon’s rolling hills and beautiful Humber River. What to do:

Although camping is not permitted in the City’s park system, you can still plan an outdoor adventure without leaving downtown. One of the best escapes from the city in the city is Tommy Thompson Park. Known to locals as the Leslie Street Spit, this man-made peninsula extends five kilometres into Lake Ontario. The 500-hectare park represents some of the largest existing natural habitat on the waterfront and some of the best bird watching in the GTA.

If aerial adventuring and ziplining are more your style, then add treetop trekking to your summer’s to-do list. Last year, the TRCA welcomed the Treetop Trekking Company to Heart Lake Conservation Area in Brampton and this year at Bruce's Mill Conservation Area in Stouffville.

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