Capstone Team G: Applying the RAD Framework in Climate Informed Planning and Decision Making

This post was written to report the work of Capstone Team G, one of the teams of Park Leaders involved in the Winter 2021 Park Leaders Development Program

With the growing pressure of climate change, cultural and natural heritage sites in Canada’s parks and protected areas are facing continuously greater challenges. Parks leaders and stakeholders are having to problem solve on tight timelines, tighter budgets, and with the knowledge that many Canadians have a vested interest in the outcome of their decisions. Our capstone team was interested in understanding the challenges that come with making these decisions, and ways in which to simplify complex decision making processes.

Our interest began with wanting to explore both the natural and cultural impacts of climate change. Often, cultural landmarks are left out of the discussion when talking about the impacts of climate change on Canada’s landscape. However, valuable cultural sites, such as the centuries old Totem Pole stand at Haida Gwaii, are facing possible destruction as a direct result of rising sea levels. Important decisions are being made on whether or not to preserve these landmarks, and how to do so.

Our group was first inspired by the infographic created by Capstone Team A in the Fall 2020 CPCIL eResidency. Capstone Team A had created an infographic outlining climate-informed planning and decision making when responding to climate change in Canada’s parks and protected areas. Our goal was to further their study by focusing on one decision making tool to see how it would fare in climate-informed decision making. 

 

During the winter 2021 eResidency, we learned about the Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework for decision making. Published in December 2020, the RAD framework is a decision making tool created by the National Park Service. The decision maker has three options when approaching a problem: resist change, accept change, or direct change. The RAD framework lays out clear avenues of thought when making climate change-related decisions. Throughout the months that followed the eResidency, our team researched many decision making tools, however the RAD framework continued to prove the most relevant when approaching natural and cultural heritage.

 

With this in mind, and the permission of Capstone Team A, we decided to update their infographic to integrate the RAD framework and include cultural resources as well as natural resources. We found the RAD framework could be tested using real conservation case studies. We also found in our exploration of decision making tools, that while many tools exist, few are tailored specifically to climate change, and even fewer address climate change as it relates to natural and cultural heritage sites. This is an area where little work has been done. We think that expanding upon this topic will not only be of interest in the future, but necessary to preserve, or accept the loss of, Canada’s natural and cultural heritage landmarks.

Open .pdf of Infographic

 Decision making in Canada’s parks and protected areas will only get more complex with the increasing pressure of climate change. The infographic that we have created can contribute to park leadership by laying out a simple, yet effective method of working through difficult decisions. It also shows that these decisions do not need to be made in isolation. Many leaders across Canada are facing similar issues, and coming together to discuss seemingly impossible decisions will help foster a dialogue in which ideas can be shared, problems can be solved, and ultimately, responsible and tough decisions can be made.

 

Moving forward, we believe next steps could include:

  1. Sharing the updated graphic across the parks network via the CPCIL website 
  2. Our team sharing the infographic internally within our park organizations, and offering our cohort to do the same
  3. Future CPCIL Capstone groups looking further into case studies, and put this theory into practice with the help of site managers and stakeholders. Examples our team explored to determine the usefulness of decision making tools include:
  • The declining Woodland Caribou herd in Jasper National Park due to altered predator-prey dynamics, human disturbance, and habitat loss.
  • Rising sea levels impacting the existence of the totem poles in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
  • Other sensitive climate change impacted examples currently under review with various park agencies.

Capstone Team H: Engaging Youth Through Parks

The Winter 2021 Cohort of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program presented a unique challenge to all participants: connecting entirely in an online space during the peak of a global pandemic. This program typically presents plenty of challenges even when operating as usual: connecting with other park leaders from different parks organizations, all at different points in their careers, and with different worldviews and experiences. This year, none of our cohort ever got to meet each other in person!

How does a Capstone Team of four different people from four different parks organizations unite and find common interests? Fortunately for the Winter 2021 Capstone Team H, we were able to overcome the distance, time zones, and occasional technological issues to focus on one topic that we all care about: youth engagement in our parks and protected spaces.

In March of 2021 during our two-week eResidency, our group was thrown together and had to decide, through nothing but a series of creative team building activities and conversations, what we thought our Capstone Project might focus on. Our Capstone Team has representation from four different agencies: Parks Canada, Sépaq (Québec), Ontario Parks, and Alberta Parks. We spoke a lot about themes that were important to all of us: reciprocity (giving to and receiving value from parks); connecting (and reconnecting) people with parks and protected spaces; youth; and the inspiration we took from some of the amazing guest speakers we saw during the eResidency.

One common theme we were all able to identify from our individual journeys in Parks is that of youth involvement (or lack thereof) in parks and protected spaces. We all agreed that young people – whether they work for our organizations, recreate in our spaces, or just care about nature and the environment – are critical to informing the future direction of our organizations. We know that Canadian youth have valuable opinions about issues related to our parks and protected spaces, such as inclusion, diversity, accessibility, resource management, and visitation. We also know that youth have a desire to be involved in our organizations and spaces, but sometimes encounter barriers that deter them from engaging to the fullest.

From these conversations we developed our Capstone Team idea: a Youth Council for Parks. We developed a “poster” that summarized our vision and what we hoped a Youth Council could achieve.

While the idea of a pan-Canadian Youth Council for Parks’ agencies was appealing, we realized very quickly that the scope of this idea was far too broad for us to tackle over a few months. Our team engaged in several thought-provoking discussions which led us to narrow our focus to a project that kept the core values and purpose of our initial idea but was much more manageable for our timeframe. We developed the following goal statement: Things would be better if parks agencies had a tool to keep youth more engaged with Parks’ goals and values, allowing current, former, and future/prospective youth workers to connect with one another and with mentors or other park agencies, share thoughts and ideas, and participate in meaningful projects and dialogue.

Our Capstone Team had a number of personal observations and theories as to why youth may or may not engage fully with parks’ agencies, as well as many ideas about how to connect and engage youth further, but we wanted to hear these thoughts directly from young people. We finally settled on developing a survey which could be administered to youth to assess youth values, concerns, and ideas surrounding parks and protected areas. With a limited timeline to prepare, launch, and evaluate survey results, our team created a short survey of 11 questions and distributed the survey within our networks. The survey was conducted from July 16 – July 26 and was intended to provide baseline results showing general trends.

When the survey period closed and we got a chance to look at the results, we were blown away by the quality and depth of responses. Respondents generally validated a lot of the initial observations and ideas that our Capstone Team had proposed, but also revealed deeper understanding of park issues and a greater passion for parks than we might have expected.

Despite respondents having self-identified as avid users of parks both personally and professionally, several barriers to their continued or increased enjoyment of parks and protected areas were identified. These included distance and accessibility, cost, time, overcrowding, and mistreatment by visitors. Many respondents are seeking improved job opportunities, career continuity, and improved accessibility to parks and protected area systems. Most respondents also clearly indicated an interest in having more opportunities to engage with other youth in parks and connect about jobs, training, and diverse work experiences.

Though the initial results are limited and not statistically representative, Capstone Team H believes that a survey of this nature could and should be developed further and would be an excellent tool for the CPC, CPCIL, or other parks’ agencies to employ. The data that can be gathered from our youth workers and Canadian youth in general will be invaluable to the future direction of parks’ agencies and ensuring that parks remain an accessible place for all. The youth we surveyed demonstrated thoughtfulness in their responses and proved that the next generation of park leaders are already out there. The survey and resulting data can be utilized to support the development of a community of practice for youth to engage in park leadership, by offering an open safe space for dialogue, collaboration, and to encourage youth continuity and growth.

Capstone F: Pathways to Cultural Competency

This post was written to report the work of Capstone Team F, one of the teams of Park Leaders involved in the Winter 2021 Park Leaders Development Program

Team Members: Sarah Boyle, Brendan Buggeln, Megan Bull, Rachel Goldstein, Caroline Ipeelie-Qiatsuk, Tobi Kiesewalter

The federal and provincial governments of Canada have made commitments to advance reconciliation and renew relationships with Indigenous peoples based on rights, respect, cooperation and partnership. The road towards reconciliation is inevitably complex and difficult, and should involve the participation of all Canadians, on both a personal and professional level.

Every park, marine protected area, and heritage site administered by a parks organization in Canada is located within the traditional and ancestral territory of Indigenous peoples. This creates both an opportunity and a responsibility for parks leaders to advance reconciliation and foster respectful and positive relationships with Indigenous partners and communities.

Capstone Team F acknowledged that many non-Indigenous conservation staff, including at senior levels, have limited knowledge about how to develop cultural competency. While many staff want to learn more, they are often unsure where to start or become overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of resources, especially those designed for staff already experienced in working with Indigenous partners. As high-level discussions of reconciliation within parks continue to advance, there is a risk that the knowledge ‘ceiling’ may leave the ‘floor’ behind unless appropriate tools are available to help all parks employees develop baseline cultural competencies.

Capstone Team F’s goal was to create a collection of reconciliation-focused resources which allowed learners to proceed at their own pace. The resources were curated to allow for a natural progression from foundational learning on Indigenous communities and the impacts of colonialism toward constructive action to advance truth and reconciliation. To achieve this, the Team developed a user- friendly resource package, comprised of a thematically-organized database of resources and a suite of 12 learning pathways, all of which feature an organized set of resources centred around a particular theme. Most pathways are designed for learners with limited background of Canada-Indigenous relations, and each lists a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Call to Action” which it aims to support.

The database and example pathways are by no means comprehensive, but provide a solid basis from which to begin a learning journey. The resource package may be used by supervisors to coordinate training sessions for staff (though it should never replace in-person training or the hiring of an Indigenous consultant), or it may be used by individual parks leaders for independent learning. The resource package is designed to develop cultural competency to help parks leaders advance reconciliation in their personal lives, in their professional relationships, and in their work. Above all, the resource package is intended to be a springboard for further learning, and to provide individual motivation for advancing reconciliation at a team, departmental or organizational level.

Recommendations for expanding the scope and increasing the impact of this work include:

Housing the database and learning pathways on a learning platform, such as the CPCIL website, where other users can continue to update the content

  • Testers, or site users, could provide feedback to help refine the tool, with the potential to add in a comment section or rating system so people can rate their experience with each resource as they use them.
  • The webpage would ideally be made publicly available, to make it accessible to a broader audience (e.g., teachers, municipal staff, health care workers).
  • Expansion of the database and pathways or the addition of other learning tools by future Capstone teams
  • A number of themes could continue to be explored and have pathways developed for them in the future, including but not limited to:
    • Northern cultural competency
    • Ethical Space
    • Environmental justice
    • Food sovereignty
    • Indigenous story and law
    • Status of women
    • Health
    • Language
    • Removing barriers to access
  • Some agencies, such as Parks Canada and the Federal Public Service, have invested significant resources towards creating in-depth learning websites and training resources, but these resources are not available publicly, even to other civil servants. Consideration should be given to options for providing access to these excellent resources to all civic servants, or the general public.

It is our hope that this Capstone project, and our recommendations for expanding the scope of the work, will contribute to existing efforts to advance understanding of Truth and Reconciliation in the public service. We have aimed to create a simple yet effective introduction to cultural competency, which may be useful to learners of all knowledge levels and spark motivation for a much deeper learning journey.

Unearthing Restorative Justice in a Parks Setting

By Capstone Team E – Travis Halliday, Maria O’Hearn, Kelly Stein, Jennifer Szakacs

This project was completed as part of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program, an applied leadership program exploring transformative leadership approaches to complex park issues and concepts.

Restorative justice is a criminal justice approach with the goal of healing both victim and offender.  It aims for participation with all involved while holding offenders responsible for their actions and encouraging introspection of the cause of their behaviour.

This approach is increasingly being applied across Canada leading to better outcomes for both victims and offenders. However, its application in a parks and protected areas context in Canada is unknown.

Our objective as a capstone team in the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program was to pull the curtain back to find out if and how the process is used within our parks collective. This would result in a snapshot of the current state of restorative justice that others looking to venture down this road could access.

Photo by Ben den Engelsen / Unsplash

Our preliminary research of journals, news articles and other online resources turned up very little on the use of restorative justice within a parks context. So were we boldly going where no one has gone before? A bit more time plus a thorough jurisdictional review and numerous interviews would tell.

We set out to delve deeper into restorative justice application in a conservation context to get a baseline of usage from jurisdictions across Canada. Our online survey posed questions to the Canadian Parks Council network like:

  • Who is using restorative justice?
  • What cases are referred?
  • What training is used?
  • What challenges are faced?

So, did we boldly go into uncharted territory? Most certainly. We received six responses from across the country, five of which do not use restorative justice and one respondent applies restorative justice in a marine conservation context.  The responses received, along with the fairly low response rate, indicates that restorative justice is not widely used in parks and protected areas.

However, our interviews with subject matter experts show that restorative justice is applied in other contexts, such as offences involving wildlife and natural resource-related enforcement. This presents an opportunity to build a restorative justice program for parks and protected areas by basing it on these related programs.  There is more work that can be done to dig deeper.

Bull elk bugling in a grass field with elk herd.
Photo by Briana Touzour / Unsplash

Recommendations for further work to promote the use of restorative justice in parks and protected areas across Canada include:

  1. Follow up with survey respondent from the jurisdiction currently applying restorative justice to build a case study.
  2. Develop case studies in related fields such as wildlife offences which could provide the groundwork for developing restorative justice programs in parks and protected areas.
  3. Promote the use of restorative justice in parks and protected areas across Canada through the Canadian Parks Council network.
  4. Start a forum devoted to restorative justice on the CPCIL website to facilitate information exchange among interested practitioners.
  5. Consider revisiting this topic to explore how restorative justice is applied in 5-10 years.


The benefits of restorative justice are far-reaching yet underutilized in parks and protected areas. So we have a mission for a future capstone team: to go boldly into this new world of restorative justice in a parks and protected areas context. We are keen to see what the future holds.

What restorative justice programs or examples have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below.

Playgrounds in Park Settings – Taking a Step Back on the Path Forward

This blog post was submitted as part of the 2019 Park Leaders Development Program.

When you think of playgrounds, what comes to mind?  

Photo Credit: Saskatchewan Parks

For many years, playgrounds in Saskatchewan Parks have meant the traditional steel structures with slides, climbers, monkey bars and swings.  And for many years we didn’t think much of it.  But what if we could use play spaces to further connect our youngest park visitors to the beautiful environments our parks exist within?  Over the past number of years, the idea of natural playgrounds has surfaced.  Natural playgrounds are just that – a play space designed to emphasize the natural environment, consisting of natural features such as boulders, logs, tree stumps, and other natural elements.  

Photo Credit: Juan Pablo Risso/Google– Westmoreland Park, Oregon

When the idea of natural playgrounds first arose at Saskatchewan Parks several years ago, it was met with concerns regarding how stringent playground safety standards could be achieved and the potential extra maintenance requirements to keep natural elements safe.  We continued on with replacing old, deteriorated play structures with new standard play structures which met all safety standards, were turn key products for supply and installation, and were cost effective and efficient to deliver.  

Recently though, continued thoughts from various park staff regarding the merits of natural play, coupled with advancements and research in this field, have prompted further consideration. We recognize the path forward may mean taking a step back.  We have an opportunity to utilize natural play spaces in our parks to emphasize connections to the natural environment for our next generation of park visitors.  There are some great ideas regarding how interpretive and education components could be incorporated into natural play spaces.

At the Spring 2019 CPCIL Park Leaders course I had the opportunity to share the challenges and considerations we are facing in our playground program with park leaders from across Canada.  It was inspiring because I could see the audience was intrigued by what I had to share.  It is clear other jurisdictions are faced with these same questions.

I was challenged to take the idea to a new audience to garner additional feedback – that audience being my nine-year old daughter!  I started by sharing my presentation, the concept of natural playgrounds versus traditional playgrounds.  I then asked questions about her ideal play space in a park.  While my daughter found the concept and photos of natural playgrounds “cool” she still gravitated towards traditional play elements like swings and monkey bars.  It’s not that she isn’t interested in the concept, but it’s just that – a concept.  It’s tough for anyone to imagine something aside from what they have always known.  And she has always known traditional playgrounds. 

However, an interesting thing happened on a recent camping trip with my family.  Late August weather in Saskatchewan was not conducive to a beach day and so my kids instead requested to go on a walk to the playground.  On our walk we took the scenic route, a wandering park trail, that leads to the beach, and eventually up another trail to the playground.  This is a ten-minute walk.  However, we arrived at the playground two hours later!

Photo Credit: Jennifer Szakacs

The kids were preoccupied with exploring along the trail, followed by the realization the beach was actually a fantastic spot we had all to ourselves on this cooler, close to fall day.  Even though the temperature was cool, the perfectly calm water and sun with no wind made for great weather to sit and enjoy skipping rocks.  Soon after the shovel and pail that were meant for the man-made sandbox at the playground were being used to build masterpieces on the beach.  And not long after that we sent for bathing suits for the kids so they could get out of their wet clothes and enjoy the water.  We did make a short stop at the playground afterwards, before heading back for a very late lunch, but it was the experience on the beach that stood out. We visit the beach at the park all the time, however I looked at this experience differently, as did my daughter with her knew found knowledge of nature based play experiences.  She realized that while the playground may have been our plan, our experience was elevated by our time connecting directly with nature.        

For me, this drives the point home that while traditional playgrounds may be an amenity our visitors have come to expect, it is the natural elements of our beautiful spaces which draws them to the park in the first place.  We have an opportunity to do more now that we know more.  Remaining open to thinking outside the box could allow us to incorporate the natural features of our parks into play-based educational and interpretive experiences for our youngest park visitors to enjoy.

Solo Tasks of the Spring 2019 Park Leaders Development Program

Each participant of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program is required to develop and deliver a solo presentation as part of the program residency. These presentations are designed to develop leadership communication skills, spark conversations, and may even be developed as capstone projects.

For the Spring 2019 program, presentations were required to explore a collaboration or leadership-related challenge or opportunity in their organization from their point of view. The presentation identified the situation, barriers and opportunities, and the participant’s role in addressing it.

The topics listed below were presented as part of the Spring 2019 residency and are exploratory in nature – they do not necessary represent an initiative of any specific park agency

 Collaboration for Experiences:

  • Adapting to multiple changing relationships on a changing landscape
  • Drawing on community relationships to support incident management
  • Working with non-profit partners and schools to create a centre of excellence in environmental education
  • Natural playgrounds and capital planning to build connection to nature

Uncommon Partners:

  • Working with tourism operators to improve conservation efforts
  • Collaborating with off highway vehicle communities
  • Collaboration approaches to address visitor behaviour and overcrowding
  • Marketing strategies to engage “reluctant” park visitors

Community Partners

  • Working with community groups to manage issues at heritage buildings
  • Creating capacity for working with Friends groups and community organizations
  • Successes and unintended consequences of working with community partners
  • Maintaining community relationships and personal well-being in the face of organizational change
  • Collaborating with local accommodation operators to increase compliance with permit rules

Indigenous and Cultural Collaboration:

  • Past and current work co-creating legislation with Indigenous communities
  • “What is a park?” through the eyes of different cultures, places, and people
  • The front-line, relationship building role of conservation enforcement in Reconciliation and collaboration
  • Creating a national community of practice focused on climate change threats to archaeological heritage

Internal Collaboration:

  • Building relationships that last
  • Articulating the role of heritage places within the overall environment we live in and the mandate of parks
  • The role of internal services: How to get the word out so all staff can better access organizational supports

For more information on any of these solo projects, contact: MANAGER@CPCIL.CA

Solo Tasks of the 2018 Park Leaders Development Program

Each participant of the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program is required to develop and deliver a solo presentation as part of the program residency. These presentations are designed to develop leadership communication skills, spark conversations, and may even be developed as capstone projects.

For the Fall 2018 program, presentations were required to explore an economic or leadership-related challenge or opportunity in their organization from their point of view. The presentation identified the situation, barriers and opportunities, and the participant’s role in addressing it.

The topics listed below were presented as part of the Fall 2018 residency and are exploratory in nature – they do not necessary represent an initiative of any specific park agency

 Working with Indigenous Peoples:

  • Buying Local: Parks Canada Agency community procurement opportunities and benefits
  • Sustaining the next steps of the Indigenous Circle of Experts
  • Finding ways to align consultation and engagement activities with PCA financial procedures
  • How to bridge First Nations and Parks in knowledge and programming

Sustainability of specific sites:

  • Parkanomics in Pukaskwa National Park: selling ourselves without selling out
  • Cape Breton Highlands National Park sustaining visitor experience with multiple levels of service
  • Selfie-Logs and overcrowding: Joffre Lake visitor use management
  • Archipelago of dreams: Atlantic Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) protected areas.
  • Half the park is after dark: Re visioning Mont-Mégantic

Operational Sustainability:

  • Creating revenue by creating a Parks Canada Agency consultancy
  • A modest proposal for managing drone-use in parks.
  • Evaluating the park officer model, a pilot project
  • Seeking sustainability for the mountain rescue program in Kluane National Park

Valuing Parks:

  • Valuing Natural Capital in Parks Canada
  • Manitoba Park Infrastructure Challenges
  • Valuing parks as a source of revenue.
  • Financing Territorial Protected Areas in the NWT
  • Saskatchewan Building Opportunities Program
  • Sustaining and growing parks through partnerships

For more information on any of these solo projects, contact: MANAGER@CPCIL.CA

Active Engagement

Second part of a two-part blog post written as part of the 2019 Park Leaders Development Program.

Read part one here.

Every public servant has a role in advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. This includes a commitment to making sincere and meaningful changes to the way we engage with communities, manage park lands, and consider opportunities to co-create solutions together. 

The concept of Indigenous involvement in park vegetation management, specifically in prescribed burns, needed a closer look.  Through conversations with CPCIL participants, it was discovered that Alberta has been conducting inclusive engagement for Indigenous involvement in prescribed burns.  It is still in the early stages of engagement but it serves as a good example of communication, relationship building, and cooperation.

Scott Jevons, an alumni of the 2007 CPC Park Leadership Program who works with Alberta Environment and Parks, Kananaskis Region, shared some of his experience working with local Indigenous communities on consultation and engagement regarding prescribed burns in provincial parks.

Alberta’s Evan-Thomas 10-year Vegetation Management Strategy involved consultation with several local Indigenous communities.  Following the formal consultation, Stoney Nakoda First Nation wanted to remain engaged and active in park management. As stated on their website, the Stoney Nakoda are the original “people of the mountains” and have been actively involved in park management decision making.  For example, Stoney Nakoda wish to be notified prior to prescribed fires so they may gather medicinal plants or perform a traditional ceremonies.  And in 2017, in Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area, they conducted a traditional ceremony before a prescribed burn.  They also have had specific requests such as delaying a burn due to a study that they were conducting in the area.  Having this level of communication with the community, Alberta Parks was able to adjust their management to meet both their needs.   

Has Alberta Parks run into any challenges?  Scheduling can be difficult.  When conducting a prescribed burn, conditions such as soil moisture, vegetation, and weather need to be assessed on a day-to-day basis.  It can sometimes be difficult to offer substantial notice prior to a burn.  However, Alberta Parks have been doing their best to provide the most advanced notice as possible.

Any other challenges? Any other opportunities? Could other jurisdictions adopt a similar approach of engagement?  Alberta Parks is continuing to build stronger relationships with Indigenous communities and get a better understanding of Indigenous traditional knowledge and incorporate this into their planning.  The engagement of Alberta Parks with the community has proved beneficial for both groups.  What other mutually beneficial relationships could be developed across the country?

Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Exploring Indigenous Engagement in Park Management

First part of a two-part blog post written as part of the 2019 Park Leaders Development Program.

The Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (CPCIL) provides an opportunity to network, build professional relationships, and learn from others’ experiences.  The Spring 2019 leadership program did exactly that: through discussions with other participants, ideas were shared on ways to involve Indigenous communities in park management.

Indigenous Peoples are the original stewards of the land and rely on natural spaces to pursue traditional activities such as trapping, hunting, fishing and medicinal plant collection. Provincial parks can play an important role in conserving the land and water where traditional activities take place.

Many jurisdictions have long time partnerships with Indigenous Peoples working to grow and manage park systems to help ensure sustainable land stewardship.  This relationship is important – to engage with communities, to understand the relationships and aspirations of Indigenous peoples, and to use this knowledge to guide constructive action.  Engagement and involvement can take many forms, including incorporating Indigenous perspectives and teachings into interpretive programming in parks, forming co-management agreements, and working cooperative on park management.

One example of Indigenous engagement in park activities that was shared at the spring 2019 leadership program was an experience in Waterton National Park.  In 2018 an extensive fire, named the Kenow wildfire, burned in the Waterton region following an intense lightning and thunder storm which burned 38,000 hectares including 19,303 hectares in Waterton Lakes National Park.   The fire had a significant impact on infrastructure and local communities.

Although some people had felt the forest was devastated, the landscape evolved with fire. Ecosystems are dynamic, changing and adapting in response to natural forces.  Fires also play a significant role for many Indigenous communities.  In some regions Indigenous Peoples used controlled burns to manage forests and grasslands. The timing and location of the fires were based on the traditional knowledge about their territories. These managed fires were an important component of their stewardship of the land.

The importance of fire and Indigenous culture were demonstrated following the Kenow fire where a local Indigenous community conducted a ceremony following the burn.  The Kenow fire was a natural event, but what about prescribed burns?  Are Indigenous communities involved in this park vegetation management practice?  Maybe local Indigenous communities would want to be a part of that process. The decision making around timing, location, and process could hold significance to some.  Indigenous involvement in the management of burns would also provide opportunities to conduct ceremony, if they wish, prior, during or post a fire event.  Is this type of cooperative engagement being done in any jurisdictions across Canada?  Are agencies involving Indigenous communities in managed burns?

Who is doing what, where, when, and why, and how can this be applied to other jurisdictions?  On my way to search for answers…

Go to Elvira’s next blog post

Improved Accessibility in New Brunswick Provincial Parks

(Photo Courtesy New Brunswick Parks)

In 2005, I started work with NB’s provincial parks while finishing University and accessibility was starting to become part of the core curriculum around that time.  In 2007, I had the honour to attend the Parks System Leadership course (PSL, the precursor to the Canadian Parks Collective) which was held at William Watson Lodge in Kananaskis, Alberta.

My experience at the PSL course, but more specifically of seeing William Watson Lodge – a purpose built accessible wilderness lodge – first-hand set me on a course to replicate its core values here in New Brunswick. I told Don Carruthers Den Hoed while I was there I wanted to bring it to my province, and my principle since that time has been to promote free, self-guided accessibility throughout our parks system.

This year I got to realize a big part of my accessibility dreams  with the introduction of improved facilities and new equipment in our provincial parks and a statement from our Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture that “All New Brunswickers deserve access to high-quality physical and recreational activities. I am delighted that our parks offer better access to people with limited mobility and physical disabilities, as well as new equipment, so they can enjoy nature and experience more of what our parks have to offer on the beach, in the water or down the mountain.”

Upgrades to administration offices, including accessible washrooms, campsites and cabins  and the introduction four Hippocampe wheelchairs, three WaterWheels floating beach wheelchairs and one adaptive mountain bike – the Bowhead Reach – are available this year (2019) in NB provincial parks, free of charge.

Bringing the Bowhead Reach bike to NB was icing on the cake though. I had the privilege of meeting its inventor – Christian Bagg – at another CPC led initiative, the 2016 Canadian Parks Summit in Canmore. This incredible piece of equipment and Christian’s story of determination to lead his own adventures inspired me to try and bring him and the bike to NB.

Josh, a Para-Olympian,  you see on the second bike from the left in the photo above had never heard of the bike before, much less had he been able to explore the trails at the park at his doorstep. Before we got underway with the photo shoot he’d volunteered to help us with, we gave him some time to ‘play’ and get used to the bike. I took him out on the trails and inevitably there were a couple of trees across the path. I managed to lift one enough for him to get out under, but couldn’t budge the other.

Josh was immediately trying to figure out how to backup and I could see a bit of disappointment on his face – this was supposed to be an milestone where he’d have freedom of choice  – and then I clued in and said “just go over it”… Josh  -“Really???… Me – “you bet!”. After that it was a full on sprint for me to even consider keeping up and I’m sure his smile was wider than the handlebars for the rest of the day.

Thank you to the CPC and my NB team for affording me the privilege of meeting park leaders from across the country. It’s given me some of the proudest moments of my life and now we’re getting to inspire a new generation of park lovers, one self-guided adventure at a time!