Rouge Days Newsletter
Read the full length articles!
In June 2010, the City of Pickering in partnership with Waterfront Toronto and Toronto and Region Conservation was thrilled to open the Western Gateway. Trail enthusiasts can now easily and safely travel from Toronto's waterfront to Pickering's First Nation's Trail, which leads to the Monarch Trail and Peak Trail, making up 12.2 kilometres of Waterfront Trail in the City of Pickering.
The Western Gateway Project includes a new elevated boardwalk connecting the western edge of City of Pickering to the Port Union Waterfront Park at Rouge Beach Park in the City of Toronto. Improvements included replacing steps on the north side of the CN railway line with a new staircase leading up to Dyson Road. The pedestrian boardwalk on the south side of the CN railway line was replaced with a new elevated boardwalk. The new features provide an incredibly scenic, barrier-free accessible waterfront trail for visitors from both cities.
Pickering's unique location on the shores of Lake Ontario has long attracted settlers and explorers to the area. The mouth of the Rouge River is widely considered to have played an important role in the history of local First Nations. With the creation of the Western Gateway, residents and visitors can once again enjoy the tremendous vistas of Lake Ontario and the Rouge River, as well as Port Union Waterfront Park to the west. The Western Gateway can be accessed from Pickering through Dyson Road or Bella Vista Drive and from Toronto through the Rouge Beach Park.
"You're a Mennonite Pastor?" This is a question I often get when people ask about my profession. I can see the next question in their eyes as they try to reconcile what they see in their mind's eye and what they see in front of them. Sometimes I ask the next question for them just to save some time, "Where's my horse and buggy?" They stumble in response, "Well... yeah?" This always leads to some kind of required explanation, and depending on time, location, and interest, the answer can vary from a quick "I'm not that kind of Mennonite" to a longer more involved answer that spans history from the 1500's to the present.
As with most groups, there rarely exists a monolithic representation, whether it concerns faith, race, nationality. So it is with Mennonites: we are varied racially, ethnically, nationally, culturally, and even theologically. Some of the largest Mennonite communities today live in places like Congo, India, and Ethiopia. The 'horse and buggy' Mennonites are actually a minority amongst Mennonites, but because of their distinctive looks, they stand out in people's minds. So when you are driving or hiking through Rouge Park you will not see 'horse and buggy' Mennonites, but we are there never-the-less. We are one of your partners in celebrating Rouge Days. Who are we and where do we come from? Well, I'll give you a little more then "I'm not that kind of Mennonite" but promise not to overwhelm you with too much history.
Essentially our spiritual roots are in the Reformation that took place in 16th century Europe. Our forebears emphasized Jesus' teachings on non-violence and peace, a separation of Church and State, and embracing baptism (a Christian symbolic rite that acknowledges the desire to belong to God) with an adult understanding. Because the time period wasn't known for tolerating dissenting views, many were burned at the stake or drowned. Rouge Valley Mennonite Church, where I pastor, has families who trace their roots to this turbulent time. Their ancestors fled as refugees from Europe in the 1700s to safe havens such as Pennsylvania. Later, they journeyed to Canada, particularly to the regions of Niagara, Markham and Kitchener/Waterloo. In the early 1800s the Reesor family along with others such as Burkholder, Stouffer, Wideman and Ramer, settled in southern York Region. Some Markham addresses reflect these early settlers.
The first Mennonite farmstead is located within Rouge Park, not too far from our church on Reesor Road. A local town, Stouffville, takes its name from early Mennonite settlers. As a worshiping congregation, with historic roots in Rouge Park, we are asking ourselves how we relate to the emerging park as it takes shape around us. The purpose of Rouge Days is to celebrate where we live in the Rouge River watershed. Historically, Mennonites have strong connections to this very land. This is where ancestors struggled to establish farms on what has become prime agricultural land. They also built mills along the waterways. However, urbanization has been displacing farmers over the past 40-50 years and those few that remain look with uncertainty at the future. In the midst of celebrating where we live, there are tensions. Complementary, and at times competing, visions of the park - reforestation, conservation, culture, agricultural preserves and recreational use - all walk a tight rope together.
Mennonites in the park share this tight rope. We uphold these various visions, celebrating where they resonate, and questioning where they seem at odds. Sometimes we hold competing values even within ourselves. We want to see urbanization held at bay and the land nurtured. We participate gladly in Rouge Park events such as garbage clean up, but an event such as mulching around newly planted trees highlights the tension of competing values.
Where is the balance of preserving prime agriculture land, being swallowed up at an alarming pace in southern Ontario, and preserving land for wildlife and reforestation? How can farmers still make a living in the park? We, as Mennonites in the park, celebrate and support the walking trail system being developed. To mark our historical roots, and our continued presence, Rouge Valley Church plans to build a peace garden, providing hikers and visitors to the park a place to rest and enjoy. The garden will connect to our historical and present day convictions that God calls us to be a people of peace, at peace with God, with one another, and with creation. Yes, there are Mennonites here, an active, open, and caring community, seeking to live out our faith in the place where we worship: Rouge Park.
It's a beautiful spring morning in York Region. You enjoy a leisurely breakfast before grabbing a cup of coffee and heading out for a sunshine-filled hike along a Rouge River Valley trail. Afterwards, you head home for an ice-cold glass of water and a hot shower.
Think about how many ways water played a role in this relaxing Saturday scenario. Water provides many services in our day-to-day lives, but we often don't think about the connections between our use of water in and around our homes and the health of local rivers, wetlands and lakes.
The water supply for The Regional Municipality of York comes from both groundwater and surface water sources; the same sources that support our rivers, wetlands and lakes. Water conservation contributes to a healthy watershed by ensuring future generations have abundant, clean sources of drinking water. Water conservation also results in less runoff into our lakes and rivers and less energy used in the provision and treatment of water. York Region's Water for Tomorrow program provides residents and businesses with tools to change the way they use water, without sacrificing quality of life.
Spring is the perfect time to shake away the winter blahs and add colour to your home with easy-to-do landscaping changes. Find your inner green thumb with a free Water for Tomorrow at-home lawn and garden consultation for York Region residents. Our advisors will help you create a beautiful garden requiring less water and work. Water for Tomorrow offers a comprehensive line-up of free garden workshops with professional advice for every size and style of outdoor space.
One of our past participants in the home landscape visit program offers a virtual tour of his backyard garden oasis, inspired by Water for Tomorrow workshops and advice. Murray's garden video, In Full Bloom, is posted on www.waterfortomorrow.ca .
To save water inside your home, look for the WaterSense® label to choose bathroom fixtures that save water without sacrificing quality. WaterSense® labelled products provide the high level of performance consumers expect, while using at least 20 per cent less water than conventional fixtures. York Region residents are eligible for a $75 rebate when replacing an existing toilet with a new WaterSense® labelled model found on our approved list.
Fixing leaks around your home is an easy way to reduce your water footprint and the amount on your water bill. Some leaks, like a dripping faucet, are easy to spot. Unfortunately, that's not always the case as toilets can leak without making a sound. To find out if your toilet needs repair, add a few drops of food colouring or a toilet leak tablet to the tank and wait 15 minutes. If any of the colour has seeped into the bowl, there's a leak that needs fixing. Many small household leaks can be repaired with simple tools and a few replacement parts readily available from your local hardware store. Consult a reputable repair guide, your owner's manual or a professional to get started.
For more information on Water for Tomorrow programs and resources, visit our website www.waterfortomorrow.ca or call 1-888-967-5426. Join our e-newsletter mailing list to receive updates with events, advice and rebates on water efficiency and conservation.
Markham Museum is a rapidly growing community museum. It connects the history of Markham to today's new 'settlers'. The 25-acre site offers exhibits, school programs, public programs, events, private event venues and research facilities. Markham Museum has become a popular outlet for youth to complete their community service hours; our volunteer base has steadily grown each year.
With the diversity of the growing Markham community it is vital to provide an outlet for teens and new immigrant youth to feel welcome and to develop life skills. In 2011, the Museum was successful in its application to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Inter-Action Multiculturalism Grant Program. Funding was secured to develop sustainable youth programming, providing youth mentorship, training, and an understanding of Canadian heritage and a sense of community. Markham Museum, in partnership with Scarborough Museum, McCord Museum and Surrey Museum, will be creating unique youth programming through this grant program.
At Markham Museum we have established a Youth Mentorship Committee called MY Community (Markham Youth Community). Since our formation in fall of 2011, we have organized a Food Drive to benefit the Markham Food Bank and a Community Expo which showcased the talent and creativity of Markham Youth.
In 2012, we have been fortunate enough to pair with the Mayor's Youth Task Force (MYTF) and meet with other local youth groups in Markham. Through this partnership youth forums have been established to discuss collaborative events and issues within the youth community. Camp Suzuki in the Rouge is an innovative public engagement program run by David Suzuki Foundation. MY Community, along with 11 other teams, were chosen to participate in this program which will raise awareness and get people into and experiencing Rouge Park. MY Community is specifically working to promote Rouge Park to the youth of Markham. This year, MY Community will host a picnic in the park, consisting of outdoor activities, hiking, a picnic and a youth forum.
Our long term goal is to work directly with the staff at Rouge Park to create an outreach program. The program would recruit teens to act as ambassadors for Rouge Park, undertaking promotion and awareness activities in schools, community centers and at local events. MY Community is grateful to have the ability to work with the David Suzuki Foundation and Rouge Park, and we look forward to our future endeavours. For more information and to get involved, contact Katie Epp, Youth Mentorship Lead, Markham Museum at 905-294-4576 Ext. 34 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Rouge River watershed spreads out from Lake Ontario north and west across the borders of the City of Toronto, and through the Towns of Markham, Richmond Hill and Whitchurch-Stouffville in the Region of York. There is even a small slice of the watershed that edges into the City of Pickering in the Region of Durham. While the political boundaries don't mirror the environmental ones, the seven councils are working together, through Toronto and Region Conservation, to safeguard the Rouge. This unique, watershed-based partnership is crafting a green regime of by-laws, planning policies and municipal programs. Here are just a handful of examples ...
- Several trails will connect the Rouge Park to the rest of the City through the City of Toronto's Major Multi-Use Trail Network. The City has been working on the network through the Recreation Infrastructure Canada program. To date, two trails have been constructed that connect to the Finch Avenue Hydro Corridor Trail and the Gatineau Hydro Corridor Trail. The trail connection to the Finch Hydro Corridor Trail will run from Morningside Avenue and Sewells Road to Rouge River Drive and Sheppard Avenue East; this trail runs along the top of the Morningside Tributary Valley. Future connections are planned to connect this trail to the existing Finch Hydro Corridor Trail at Middlefield Road and McNicoll Avenue. The second trail will connect the Rouge Park to the Gatineau Hydro Corridor Trail. This trail will run from Kirkhams Road and Meadowvale Road to Conlins Road where it will connect to an existing trail that extends all the way to Victoria Park, near Eglinton Avenue. These trails will provide a primary connection between the two major east-west multi-use pathways.
- The approval of a 5-lot residential subdivision on Boydwood Lane near Sheppard Avenue in the Rouge River watershed resulted in approximately 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres) of valleyland being dedicated into public ownership. Although the limits of the valley-side lots did not reflect the Rouge Park boundary, the entire valley proper (from stable top of bank to the watercourse) was added to the Rouge Park in Toronto. It is a rare occurrence that such a sizable portion of private land, south of Steeles Avenue, is received into public ownership.
- The City of Toronto has launched the 10-year review of their Official Plan and is contemplating incorporating the Rouge Park Management Plan.
- The Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville has identified the need to undertake a comprehensive update to their Official Plan given that the last major update to their OP was in 2004 (OPA 109). Since the approval of OPA 109, the Town undertook several updates to address site-specific development applications and policy updates to address evolving regional and provincial requirements. One of the major amendments since 2004 was OPA 129, which established that future development and redevelopment in the Town take place in a manner consistent with principles of sustainability, stating that, "Any change in the Community of Stouffville should be undertaken in a manner which is sustainable and which will preserve and enhance the integrity of the natural environment of the community."
- The Town of Markham is also in the process of updating their Official Plan; the Rouge North Management Plan is incorporated into the existing Markham Official Plan.
- The Town of Richmond Hill's new Official Plan was recently approved by the Town but is now under appeal at the Ontario Municipal Board. The plan puts a new framework in place for Master Environmental Servicing Plans in Urban Areas, or "Urban MESPs". These are large areas of the Town consisting of older existing structures proposed for large-scale redevelopment, for which the Official Plan proposes to ensure that opportunities for natural heritage restoration, flood plain remediation, and stormwater retrofit are examined.
- In the Town of Aurora, lands that encompass a portion of the headwaters of the Rouge River watershed on the Oak Ridges Moraine were the subject of a recent Ontario Municipal Board decision. The OMB-approved plan will see the development of 75 detached residential condominium units and an 18-hole golf course known as West Hill Golf Course. TRCA staff participated in the OMB process, in which conditions of approval included a homeowner education program (about the ORM), Audubon certification within 5 years, vegetation and groundwater monitoring programs, and dedication of a 9.9-hectare (24.5-acre) tableland woodlot (a Key Natural Heritage Feature of the Oak Ridges Moraine) into public ownership.
- York Region approved their new Official Plan recently, but it is also currently under appeal before the Ontario Municipal Board. The plan contains policies for the Region to work with its partners in implementing and monitoring the Rouge North Management Plan, and acknowledge that within the Rouge Park, land uses shall be permitted in accordance with the Greenbelt Plan and the Rouge North Management Plan.
- The Town of Markham continues to provide funding to support tree planting and wetland restoration initiatives in the Rouge Park, including a $25,000 grant to Rouge Park each year, to be used in their Natural Heritage program. The Town also provides in-kind assistance to the Rouge Park on a regular basis for implementation in tree planting projects.
- The Town of Markham contributes to planning studies, including the Little Rouge Creek Management Plan and the Rouge North Consolidated Management Plan.
- For implementation efforts in Bob Hunter Memorial Park, including the most recent parking lot and trails project, the Town of Markham works collaboratively with TRCA to assist in streamlining approvals and other assistance as requested.
And these are just some of the 'big picture' policy and planning initiatives. Each of these municipalities has also been busy with a host of 'in the ground' outreach activities. They are planting trees, promoting healthy yards, managing stormwater, diverting waste from disposal and handling hundreds of other projects that will protect the Rouge and make it a better place to live, work and play.
Rouge Park, as it exists today, is one of North America's largest urban parks, currently spanning 47 square kilometres in the eastern sector of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Located within the heart of Canada's largest and most diverse metropolitan area, it is an assembly of natural, cultural, agricultural and recreational lands within a boundary that overlaps private properties, and municipal and provincial infrastructure corridors, within the City of Toronto and the towns of Markham and Pickering.
The park has a rich diversity of natural and cultural heritage resources, including: a rare Carolinian forest; numerous species at risk; a national historic site; geological outcrops from the interglacial age that are internationally significant; and, in-situ evidence of human history dating back over 10,000 years, including some of Canada's oldest known Aboriginal historic sites and villages.
In 2010, a review of the parks governance, organization and finance concluded that a new model was required which led to the recommendation to create a national urban park. A public opinion poll was commissioned resulting in an overwhelming 88% of respondents supporting the concept of establishing Rouge Park as Canada's first national urban park.
The Government of Canada announced in the 2011 Speech from the Throne its commitment to work towards the creation of a national urban park in the Rouge Valley. The opportunity to establish Rouge Park under the stewardship of Parks Canada, as the first national urban park, builds on the success of the Agency's past efforts and is well aligned with its current priority to meaningfully reach Canada's increasingly diverse urban population. Since its inception 100 years ago, Parks Canada has played and continues to play a vital role in preserving and presenting heritage areas representative of Canada's vast natural landscapes and rich history.
Parks Canada is excited about this groundbreaking initiative. We envision the building of a "people's park", where connections are forged between the people of this great nation and the elements that make us truly Canadian. The park's proximity to Canada's largest city - and 20 percent of our nation's population - is an excellent opportunity to engage current and future generations of stewards towards ensuring the Rouge Valley's rich natural and cultural heritage is protected for the benefit, education and enjoyment of Canadians.
In the fall of 2009, the Rouge Park Alliance provided direction to develop a Trails Master Plan for the park. This master plan is a high level planning document that will make recommendations to help lead more detailed trail design and implementation in the future. The Plan will accomplish four main objectives - to create a north-south linkage through the park from Lake Ontario to the Oak Ridges Moraine and to tie into neighbouring trail systems, to protect natural heritage resources, to celebrate the cultural heritage features of the park, and to promote safe passage of visitors through the park.
A Trail Advisory Committee made up of partners, stakeholders and trail experts led the process, while the plan was developed by a consultant, Schollen Inc. Public and partner consultation was an integral part of this plan, three public open houses were held throughout the development process, numerous 'focus group' style meetings were held, and presentations were made to several Alliance partners, including the Town of Markham and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
The plan is tasked with striking an important balance between rewarding visitor experience, and natural heritage protection. The trails will serve as a means to guide people to interesting park features such as an old mill site, or thriving wetland, while also keeping trails away from more sensitive natural areas. The Trails Master Plan also recommends closing 60+kms unofficial trails in the park.
Natural Heritage Guiding Principles - Where possible trails will be aligned to:
- Minimize disturbance to areas of 'high ecological sensitivity'
- Allow for the expansion of the natural heritage system
- Utilize existing trails where deemed appropriate from an ecological perspective
- Minimize fragmentation of existing woodlands and habitats
- Minimize interference with:
- - Natural hazards: steep slopes, floodplains, wetlands, seepage areas
- - Habitats for Species of Concern and Species at Risk
Recreation guiding principles - Where possible trails will be aligned to:
- Trails will offer a range of experiences and challenges for passive recreation
- Trails within the park will be primarily used for hiking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing and nature appreciation
- Bicycle routes will be located predominantly along road rights-of-way, multi-use pathways
- Motorized vehicles will be prohibited on all trails (with the exception of maintenance/service vehicles)
After extensive public and stakeholder consultation, the Trails Master Plan will be presented to the Rouge Park Alliance in mid-2012 for approval.
We have all seen urban wildlife of one kind or another close to where we live. Most commonly we see birds in our own backyards, but the Rouge Valley is also home to some much more secretive wildlife, barely seen and, unfortunately, very rare. Many of the turtles that live in our watershed are Species at Risk, protected by both Federal and Provincial legislation created to ensure their long term survival. Over the past 10 years, the Toronto Zoo's Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme has undertaken a series of research projects, as a collective entitled the Urban Turtle Initiative, to learn more about what species of turtles are in the Rouge Valley, where they are living, and how they use the landscape to survive.
To get things going, Adopt-A-Pond staff first needed to get out into the habitat and find some turtles - easier said than done when you think about the daily habits of these animals. Most of their time is spent either foraging for food under the water or cautiously basking on logs, ready to jump into the water at the first sign of movement. Although some turtles seem more comfortable with human presence than others, none of them let you get very close before retreating into their watery haunt and hiding in the nearby vegetation.
To know what turtles are living in certain areas we often look to the public for help, as do other conservation organizations and researchers. Through our Ontario Turtle Tally citizen naturalist program we encourage people who see a turtle to report its location online at www.torontozoo.ca/adoptapond/TurtleTally.asp and tell us about it. Whether it's the commonly seen Painted turtle or the secretive Stinkpot turtle, and whether the turtle in dead or alive, reports of location information helps us inform decision makers about areas that need to be conserved. This program is funded by Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program, and Rouge Park Natural Heritage Grants.
During the Rouge Valley study we caught Painted turtles, Snapping turtles, Northern Map turtles and Blanding's turtles. To find out what habitats they were living in, we used radio telemetry to track their daily movements. By attaching a small (6-20 gram) radio transmitter to the shell of each turtle, we can follow them by "tuning in" to the radio signal emitted from their transmitter. Over the course of 10 years we radio tracked a total of 7 Snapping turtles, 7 Blanding's turtles, and 3 Northern Map turtles within the valley.
The turtles led us to their foraging areas, overwintering areas, nesting areas, and the travel routes in between. We found that the home range size for Snapping turtles was linear along the rivers, covering on average a 2 km stretch. Blanding's turtles moved in a less linear fashion covering an average of 15 hectares throughout the valley wetlands, while Northern Map turtles had an even larger non-linear home range size of about 25 hectares! Within these home ranges were a variety of habitats to suit the turtles different needs. Both Snapping turtles and Northern Map turtles spent over fifty percent of the time in rivers, while Blanding's turtles frequented marsh habitats most of the time, and pond habitats as a close second. One female Blanding's turtle moved over 2 kilometres up the Rouge River to a nesting site she used for three consecutive years!
It is always interesting to see what different types of habitats different species will use; it also tells us how much space we need to protect if we expect to sustain a stable population of turtles. Luckily the turtles of the Rouge Valley have a large area of protected spaces in which to move about, but that doesn't make them immune to outside pressures. Living in an urban area exposes our turtles to a number of challenges aside from habitat loss, including increased predator populations, road mortality, collection by humans, and manmade barriers that limit movement along travel routes. Simple acts like helping a turtle across the road can be of more assistance than you would think. Those turtles moving around in June are usually females looking to lay their eggs. By helping them across the road you are saving not only the mother turtle but all of her babies as well. Most of our roads have a high curb, so when you're only a few centimeters tall like a turtle, this can seem like the biggest of barriers. Your assistance at the roadside can make all the difference for our urban turtles.
Want to learn more about turtles and other wildlife? Visit the web page for the Toronto Zoo's Adopt-A-Pond Programme at www.torontozoo.ca/adoptapond/ to get more information about our citizen naturalist projects. On June 12th, 2012 the Toronto Zoo is partnering with Rouge Park to hold a Reptile and Amphibian BioBlitz. Come out and join local experts as they identify various species throughout the Rouge Valley. Contact email@example.com to learn more.
September 2011 was buzzing with excitement in Rouge Park as we welcomed the 4th Annual Tour de Greenbelt. For the first time, Rouge Park hosted and organized this fresh air festival on wheels, and we were thrilled with the enthusiastic participants, keen volunteers, and generous partners. This tour would be like no other Tour de Greenbelt - traditionally held over 4 days throughout the Greenbelt, this one day event would offer a near urban feel, all focused on highlights of the Rouge Watershed.
Cyclists chose from 5 routes through the park, from a family friendly 12km loop to 100km route for those feeling a bit more eager. Participants were welcomed to numerous Discovery Stops along the way, hosted by our partners, offering snacks, refreshments, and a celebration of park features. Resting weary legs, participants stopped to enjoy a restored wetland habitat to spot birds, take in the views at Rouge Beach, or purchase fresh produce at one of the local farmers markets.
Once the riders accomplished their distance, they were welcomed to a celebration with local food, great music, informative displays and activities. The 2011 Tour saw a higher than average attendance rate, with well over 350 participants and a team of 25 volunteers, with a similar demographic breakdown to past events which include riders of all ages and from 30 different southern Ontario and Greenbelt communities.
A special thank you to our major contributors, the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, Enbridge, Aeroplan, the Town of Markham, the City of Toronto, and the Toronto Zoo all made this extraordinary event possible.
The Tour de Greenbelt for 2012 is currently in the works. Keep an eye on www.rougepark.com for details as they become available. We hope to see you there!
A BioBlitz brings together natural history specialists and members of the public to try to identify as many plants and animals as possible over a 24 hour period, so as to document the biodiversity of a designated area. It's a community based volunteer initiative linking science, education and public participation. Specialists and experts from a diverse set of disciplines will be grouped with interested, enthusiastic volunteers to explore the areas under investigation. The importance of the BioBlitz is in recording the species of an area for the long term value of knowing the biodiversity of a site at a particular point in time. Environmental changes including the effect of global warming or climate change and invasive species presence may be seen and monitored. The report that comes from the data collected will provide a useful reference for the future of this area.
The 2012 BioBlitz is being held in the Rouge Park and within the Toronto Zoo. The 2012 Blitz will be concentrated in areas where wildlife is known to be present. Rouge Park has a variety of habitats including forests, wetlands, meadows, restoration sites and agricultural lands which provide a good diversity of species.
The Blitz will be taking place from 3:00 pm Friday June 15th to 3:00 pm Saturday June 16th. Species identification will be taking place throughout the 24 hour period. Amateur, professional and young naturalists are all welcome to help out with spotting and identifying species and learning about the science behind species collection and identification. While we are at it, we will have the opportunity to learn about the natural history of the Rouge Park too!
The potential list of species for this area is in the hundreds. We will be looking for every living thing possible including mammals, birds, insects, invertebrates, fish, reptiles, amphibians, trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, mosses, fungi and anything else we can discover. Who knows, we may even be lucky enough to discover a rare or endangered species!
At the conclusion of the Blitz, we will celebrate our hard work with a BBQ for all participants in the Blitz.
The Rouge Park and the Toronto Zoo are delighted for the opportunity to hold such an educational and fun event such as a BioBlitz this year and look forward to partnering with our communities in discovering the biodiversity of our natural spaces.
On your next visit to the Rouge, pause and imagine those who walked along the river before you. Think of the pioneers who settled along the river several hundred years ago and the Peoples who lived along these waters for thousands of years before them. The footprints left in the snow have long melted away; however, other clues are still there for us to keep their stories alive.
Over the last century, archaeologists have identified and registered about 500 archaeological sites within the watershed's boundaries. These sites span from 12,000 years ago to about 100 years ago and range from single artifacts and camp sites to large village sites, homesteads and industrial sites such as mills.
Many more clues are still left for us to find and many more stories to tell. Toronto and Region Conservation's Resource Management Unit is adding a few pages to the story every year by identifying and protecting more sites. Regular archaeological assessments prior to land disturbance ensures these sites are identified, protected and added to the general archaeological record in Ontario, thus helping us map human history in the watershed.
Human interaction with the Rouge River began about 12,000 years ago. The glaciers that formed during the last ice age started to retreat and nomadic people started to move in. The area was arid and tundra-like and these early groups may have followed herds of caribou to the area. Today, archaeologists refer to these people as PaeleoIndians and some of the clues they left behind are distinctive stone tools such as fluted projectile points.
During the next 4,000 years the weather gradually warmed up and the environment was changing. The flora and fauna became more diversified and people adapted their life style and technologies accordingly. On sites associated with these people, archaeologists find artifacts relating to woodworking activities, hunting and fishing. Groundstone tools and net-sinkers are some of the artifacts which help us identify these sites. The distribution of sites within the watershed suggests these people moved around the area in annual seasonal rounds that most likely followed available food sources. This time period lasted for about 7,000 years and is identified as the Archaic Period.
The next archaeological period, the Woodland Period, is identified by technological changes. Pottery was introduced to the area and the bow and arrow was used for hunting smaller animals. These technologies along with the warming environment were major contributors to a growing population and changes in settlement patterns. The introduction of agriculture about 1,500 years ago allowed for more permanent settlements and archaeologists are finding village sites that can expand across several acres in size.
The development of these societies was interrupted by the arrival of Europeans and by the time the pioneers started to settle in the region, they were devastated and dispersed by disease and displacement.
The European settlers left behind archaeological sites and changed landscapes. Farmers' fields, hedgerows, grid roads, and fruit trees are some of the tell-tale signs someone once occupied the land. Archaeologists are finding foundations and artifacts dating EuroCanadian sites in the Rouge to a general period between 100 years ago to the early 1800s.
So next time you are out for a hike or a drive in the Rouge, try and imagine this landscape changing over time. Think of those who walked here before us and the relationship they had with the land. Think of their tale and then the story you will leave behind once your own footprints are gone.
One way to find out more about the region's past through archaeology is through participation at the Boyd Archaeological Field School for high school students
During sixteen days of study, students learn first-hand the process of archaeology and experience a comprehensive understanding of Ontario's first peoples. Having completed 34 successful years, the Boyd Field School is Canada's longest running archaeological field course specifically structured for high school students. The course includes lectures and application of skills and theoretical methods at a registered archaeological site under the instruction of certified teachers and licenced archaeologists. Students are awarded a Grade 12 Interdisciplinary Studies credit (IDC4U) on successful completion of the field school through the Continuing Education Department of the York Region Board of Education.
Some of the course components include:
- archaeological theory
- archaeological assessments
- processing and analysis of artifacts
- study of past Aboriginal and Euro-Canadian histories
- modern Aboriginal worldview and contemporary social issues
- analysis of the environment of the culture
- traditional skills
For more information about the field school and about archaeology at TRCA, visit www.trca.on.ca/archaeology
The Town of Richmond Hill's Community Stewardship Program started in May of 2008. The program includes various natural environment partnership projects to establish healthier natural corridors and green space connections throughout the Town's greenway system. Stewardship involves working together with the community to increase environmental awareness and providing hands-on assistance to clean, manage, protect and enhance the Town's streams, woodlots and other natural areas ensuring a healthy environment.
Since the start of the Community Stewardship Program, Richmond Hill has involved over 7500 volunteers in stewardship and restoration projects, planted more than 70,000 trees and shrubs, contributed to the Town's goal of 25% tree cover, and provided education and physical activity for the community. The trees and shrubs planted through this program will help purify the air, cool down cities, reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat and reduce energy consumption while creating aesthetically pleasing public spaces and neighbourhoods in the long term.