07/11/2015 11:55 EDT | Updated 07/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces expansion of Rouge National Urban Park

PICKERING, Ont. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the federal government will more than double its initial contribution to Rouge National Urban Park.

Harper announced today in Pickering, Ont., that 21 square kilometres are being added to the park in Pickering and the township of Uxbridge, just east of Toronto.

He says the new lands will increase the park's boundaries by 36 per cent, to 79.5 square kilometres once fully established, making it one of the largest urban parks in North America — 19 times larger than Stanley Park in Vancouver and 22 times larger than Central Park in New York City.

The new area include forests, meadows, streams, creeks, important archaeological sites and large tracts of farmland.

The government announced its intention to create the park — the first urban national park in Canada — in 2011.

Legislation creating the park was passed in the House of Commons this past January, received royal assent in April and came into force in May.

“Today’s announcement will provide families across the Greater Toronto Area and visitors from coast to coast to coast with more opportunities to enjoy Canada’s great outdoors," Harper said.

"The expansion of Rouge National Urban Park will also ensure current and future generations of Canadians remain connected with an important part of Canada’s rich natural and cultural heritage.”