by Stanley Omotor
Stanley Omotor is part of a team of CPCIL Research and Knowledge Gatherers producing content and compiling resources on themes such as inclusion, ecosocial justice, partnerships, conservation, organizational sustainability, climate change and biodiversity, connection to nature, conservation financing, and ecotourism, to support effective and equitable leadership and inclusion in parks and protected areas across Canada.
Pascale Salah is a social scientist and currently a national urban parks project manager at Parks Canada, where her work involves planning and research. Pascale is involved with initiatives, such as IUCN #NatureForALL, aimed at making parks more accessible and welcoming to all.
More than ever before, the benefits of parks and Nature to all Canadians, and the need to access good quality green space close to or in our neighborhood are becoming more generally appreciated and agreed upon as the Covid-19 pandemic drags on. Park leaders and members of the public are developing a greater appreciation for parks and green spaces across Canada leading to increased park use during the pandemic. With this growing realization comes the need to create and enable parks that inspire and invite all people – Parks for All.
“Parks for All means to bring together parks professionals, their many partners, and engaged citizens under the shared goal of Healthy Nature and healthy people, so that we can align our efforts and achieve more together”
But how do we define “Parks for All” or when can we say that parks are for all? Despite comprising only three words, the term “Parks for All” encompasses much more than can be imagined – from increasing accessibility to Nature and all its benefits, to building collaborations with Nature, partners, and host communities, to unleashing the potential of all types of parks for people and the planet. In 2017, the Canadian Parks Council and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association released Parks for All: An Action Plan for Canada’s Parks Community, noting the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving this vision: Parks for All means to bring together parks professionals, their many partners, and engaged citizens under the shared goal of healthy Nature and healthy people, so that we can align our efforts and achieve more together.
Implementing the Parks for All Action Plan: Partnership
The implementation of Parks for All necessitates partnerships – partnerships that ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to benefit from park services and the diverse benefits that come from time spent connecting with Nature. In Canada, partnerships that hear Indigenous voices, support Indigenous stewardship of the land, and strengthen relationships with Indigenous peoples are especially important in achieving Parks for All. The CPC/CPRA Action Plan identifies four strategic directions towards Parks for All:
- Collaboration – This involves giving priority to nurturing partnerships between Indigenous organizations and the broader parks community, collaborating with new and diverse sectors, and strategizing beyond park boundaries with a goal of creating more opportunities to work together.
- Connection – This involves giving priority to raising public awareness of our parks, facilitating experiences which connect visitors with Nature, and sharing stories and successes to inspire more engagement.
- Conservation – This involves working together to expand Canada’s park system, enhancing parks planning and management, and enhancing ecosystem service benefits from parks; and
- Leadership – This involves setting ambitious examples that can pave the way for others, in Canada and internationally, building the capability of current and future leaders, and developing and maintaining systems, tools, and resources to support leaders.
Working Together to Create a Network of National Urban Parks for All
Parks Canada launched an ambitious new program in 2021 to create a network of national urban parks, which encompasses many of the Parks for All priorities outlined above. National urban parks are devised to achieve the best in park practices including protecting biodiversity, supporting climate resilience, connecting people to nature, improving mental health and wellness, promoting cultural heritage, and increasing social inclusion. They will also provide opportunities to support reconciliation with Indigenous populations in urban centres. From the outset, the new program has placed a strong emphasis on the importance of partnership and collaboration, presenting an exciting opportunity for collaboration across all levels of government, including Indigenous governments, as well as with a diverse range of stakeholders. Working collectively, the national urban parks program offers a national platform to expand Canada’s network of urban parks, with the aim of enabling “Parks for All”.
Parks can do better when all members of the park community (including park leaders) work amongst themselves and together. Achieving Parks for All involves all members of the parks community, and this includes recreationists, young leaders, health and medical practitioners, media, activists, planners, park staff, educators, entrepreneurs, government authorities, Indigenous Peoples, non-governmental organizations, all professionals and all engaged Canadians. Despite perceived challenges, by working in collaboration, creating stronger connections, and displaying good leadership, we can achieve the goal – Parks for All.
What do you think of the two chairs in the first image above? Are they comfortable to sit on? Could a better item, other than the sharp wooden stake, have helped in better connecting the chairs to allow for more comfortable communication, collaboration and enjoyment? In engaging in partnerships in Parks for All, are you using proper partnership tools or a sharp wooden stake?
Park people: Covid-19 and parks: Highlights from our national surveys. Park People COVID19 and Parks Highlights from our national surveys Comments. (n.d.). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://parkpeople.ca/2020/07/16/covid-19-and-parks-highlights-from-our-national-surveys/
Parks Canada Agency, G. of C (2021, August 4). Government of Canada invests $130 million to work with partners to create a network of National Urban parks. Canada.ca. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.canada.ca/en/parks-canada/news/2021/08/government-of-canada-invests-130-million-to-work-with-partners-to-create-a-network-of-national-urban-parks.html
Parks Canada Agency, G. of C. (2022, May 17). National urban parks. Parks Canada. Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pun-nup
Parks for all. Canadian Parks and Recreation Association. (2021, June 16). Retrieved July 19, 2022, from https://cpra.ca/policy/parks-for-all/