It will soon be a little easier for visitors to access and learn more about Rouge National Urban Park.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has announced that her government will build a new education and welcome centre for the sprawling park on a plot of land just off Meadowvale Road that currently houses an overflow parking lot for the Toronto Zoo.

The facility is expected to be up and running in three years.

“A big thank you goes to the Toronto Zoo and the TRCA (Toronto Region Conservation Authority) for transferring this land so we can build a welcome centre that educates Canadians young and old about how amazing this park is,” McKenna said. “This park is on public transit and it is within an hour of seven million Ontarians. That is incredible because some of our parks are really far away. This park provides a gateway so that people can get a taste of nature, get out of their houses, get away from their phones and just enjoy what is so beautiful.”

Rouge National Urban Park spans an area that covers 80-square kilometres and includes parts of Toronto, Markham, Pickering and the Township of Uxbridge.

McKenna said that the park is an “extraordinary, incredible place” that is home to 1,700 species of plants and animals, including 23 that are currently deemed to be at risk. Nonetheless, she said that it hasn’t always been as well-known as it probably should be.

“I am originally from Hamilton and I didn’t really know about Rouge but I think we now have an opportunity through today’s announcement to really have people know how they can get here,” she said. “I really hope people come because it is only by connecting with and discovering the parks that you realize how much we need to take care of nature.”

Rouge National Urban Park was first established in 2015; however it wasn’t until June of this year that the Toronto Region Conservation Authority transferred the 1,847 hectares of land that formed much of the original Rouge Park over to Parks Canada.

Speaking with reporters following Tuesday’s announcement, Mayor John Tory said that he is hopeful that the creation of a welcome centre will lead to more Torontonians visiting the national urban park.

“This is still a relatively new thing, the park all coming together, and I think if you asked a lot of Torontonians they would know about it but they would probably say how do you get there? Where is the entrance? Where can I go on public transit or for that matter on their bike or in their car? This welcoming centre, this education centre, is going to provide a focal point for that,” he said.