With one of the fastest growing populations in North America, the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) is fortunate to be surrounded by the Greenbelt, a protected area of farmland, forests, and natural areas that spans almost two million acres.

Thanks to the Greenbelt, there are over 10,000 km of hiking trails and recreational areas within an hour of most Toronto residents. There are even hiking trails in Toronto, which exemplifies the city’s motto, “A City within a Park”. Whether you’re an experienced hiker, or interested in exploring Toronto’s greenery, the Rouge River Valley offers picturesque adventures.

Rouge Valley fall Colours Finch Meander by Jim Robb of FRW Oct 09

Located in northeast Toronto (by the Toronto Zoo) and extending  just outside the city, Rouge Park is Canada’s only national urban park, and is 15 times larger than Central Park in New York City! This 28-kilometre ribbon of forest, wetlands, and wildlife is the perfect spot for a day trip and is accessible by public transit. It offers 12 km of rustic hiking trails where you can really appreciate the Greenbelt’s role in protecting Ontario’s nature.

I recently had the chance to head out to the park for some hiking. I arrived at Rouge Park less than an hour after leaving the hustle and bustle of my downtown Toronto home, and all I could hear was the sound of the water flowing and frogs croaking. No honking, no sirens – just the sounds of nature.

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There are a series of connected trails throughout the park, each well marked and which vary according to difficulty and length. (The park also organizes guided hikes year-round, from gentle walks to energetic fitness hikes). I decided to hike the Cedar Trail which is a 2.2 km trail across varied terrain. On an early autumn Sunday, I could see the canopy of fall-coloured oak, maple, and walnut trees. The Cedar Trail runs parallel to the Little Rouge Creek and took me through various ecosystems, including wooded areas, wetlands, meadows and grasslands. I was greeted by a handful of walkers, joggers, and dog walkers.

After about 45 minutes of strolling around snapping pictures of the autumn leaves, I was at the end of the trail. A perfect hike on an autumn Sunday in a national park inside the city of Toronto!

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Ontario’s Greenbelt makes this possible. If not for this protected land, cookie-cutter houses and roads would be lining the valley. But, the Greenbelt is under threat from developers and municipalities that are requesting land be removed from it  – there’s been over 650 requests so far (see map here). If this passes, Ontarians can expect to lose a lot more green space – hiking trails, farms, forests and wetlands – to urban sprawl, an unnecessary airport, a dumping ground, and a mega-highway (Stop Highway 413).

Don’t let them destroy Ontario’s Greenbelt – now’s the time to save the Greenbelt for good! Sign this petition to tell Ontario to keep the Greenbelt strong for today and future generations.

 

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