Metro Morning·MM in Rouge Park

U of T students working on an app to help you navigate Rouge Park

Four University of Toronto students are working on an app for Rouge Park that they hope will inspire people to take a hike.

'It's sort of this wonderful, natural oasis within the city'

University of Toronto Scarborough students Derek Etherton, Winston Lee, Alexander Cavanagh and Kaitlyn Chow are working to create an app for Canada’s first national urban park. (University of Toronto)

Four University of Toronto students are working on an app for Rouge Park that they hope will inspire people to take a hike. 

Their guide will help you navigate trails criss-crossing the 5,000 hectares of parkland.

"Our vision for the app is to make it something that will help people engage with the park and become inspired to get out there and explore the park," Kaitlyn Chow told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Thursday. 

  • What do you love about our city's green spaces? Metro Morning is live from Rouge Park Friday 5:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Listen on 99.1 FM and watch live on

Chow is a master's student in environmental science and the content creator for the Rouge Park app, which means she's responsible for all photos and writing. She's been doing research, speaking to Parks Canada staff members and hitting the trails herself.

"Our hope is to inspire people to learn more about the park and start to care about it, because people will protect what they care about," she said.

(Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Rouge Park is Canada's first national park in an urban area. It's home to more than 1,700 species — from flowers to reptiles.

Alexander Cavanagh is a computer science student and the app's software developer. He says the goal is to launch the app in the next two years.

"What we want it to look like is something which is easy to use, intuitive design, and something engaging," Cavanagh said. 

'Natural oasis within the city'

Chow says one of the hopes is to teach people about the historical and cultural significance of the park.

"People have lived here for almost 10,000 years," Chow said. "More recently, farmers have been farming in the Rouge Valley for more than 200 years."

Cavanagh says the app will also provide users with basic information, like a park map and directions on how to get to different landmarks. That means he's gotten to do some exploring of his own.

​"I will admit this is one of the great benefits of getting a job like this," he said. "Typically computer science students go and sit behind a desk. I actually get to go out in the park and experience some of this cultural and biological diversity."

And once you're among the trees, Chow says it's easy to forget you're technically still in Toronto.

"It's sort of this wonderful, natural oasis within the city."