Queen of the Peaks – Pattie Gonia Brings Drag to the Outdoors

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By Rachel Goldstein

Rachel Goldstein 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. These positions are funded by Canada’s Green Jobs Program and supported by Project Learning Tree

Deep in the heart of Oregon, USA, lives a 6’3” drag queen by the name of Pattie Gonia. Pattie can often be seen in her trademark leather platform boots climbing mountains, ascending peaks, or catching a wave. Recognizable by her signature flaming locks and the fact that she’s, well, a drag queen, Pattie crosses boundaries and sets new standards in the world of the outdoors, not unlike her namesake.

Popularized in the late 1800s by the Black Queer community, drag has developed from a fringe movement to a mainstream phenomenon. In essence, it is a way for members of the queer community to embrace and express an artform. Drag is a performance of gender that comments on the performativity of gender itself. In mainstream media, it is typically a queer man performing as a woman, though drag can encompass all gender identities and sexual orientations. If you are struggling to find the connection between drag and the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership, consider the queen who is branching out of the typical femme architecture of drag to embrace the outdoors in her art. Ms. Pattie Gonia is a self-described “lady in the streets but a freak on the peaks”. She is the intersectional, environmentalist drag queen that we all need. Pattie describes drag as “an artform that is most oftentimes performed by queer people that bends gender as a means of self-discovery and performance”. For Pattie, it is also a means of taking political action and drawing attention to the climate crisis and the need for environmental sustainability.

Category is: Environmental Sustainability

I recently spoke with Wyn Wiley (he/him/they), the man behind the queen, Pattie Gonia (she/her/they) about his experience bringing drag to the outdoors.* Wyn is relatively new to the drag scene, having started performing as Pattie just over two years ago. His unique take on drag, however, has amassed Pattie over 300,000 followers on Instagram and international attention in that short period of time. Wyn’s drag is unique for many reasons. For anyone familiar with mainstream drag, Wyn’s approach is a polar opposite. Drag in the media is presented as femme-passing, high-fashion, and runway ready. 

While Pattie Gonia can certainly encompass these traits, she often chooses to simply adorn herself in hiking gear and a pair of thigh-high platform boots, sometimes accompanied by a wig, makeup, or a gown, but never without the boots. When I asked her about the importance of her boots, she reminded me that drag is simply another artform. Painters will bring their easels and canvases into the outdoors to capture a scene, photographers will bring their cameras, and Pattie will bring her boots.

Pattie also brings her unique take to her performances. A typical drag performance is often in a bar or club setting. Pattie prefers to perform in the outdoors. She starts off by speaking to her audience about environmental concepts or diversity in the outdoors and ends on a performance. Any questions I had for her about feeling duty-bound to incorporate environmentalism into her drag were rendered irrelevant when she informed me that “there are many days I’ll just get in drag, or just get in heels and just perform outdoors and it’s not for anyone but Mother Nature herself.

“Every time I’m out there in heels is like a performance, no matter if even just a little squirrel on a tree sees it, or if it’s just for myself.”

When I first encountered Pattie’s drag, my first thought was simply, how? How does someone unite the artform of drag with the inherent ruggedness of the outdoors? This is what Wyn had to say: “I think for the longest time I loved the outdoors and for the longest time I really cherished my queer identity. And I felt like the two had to be so separate because I thought that the outdoors was this masculine story. I didn’t think that the outdoors would ever be a place for me as a queer person. But it turns out that queer people have kind of always been in the outdoors and nature is just incredibly queer. I think it very much happened by accident, but ever since, I’ve been intersecting two worlds that I never thought could be together.”

Nature As An Equalizer

The perceived masculinity of the outdoor world is a daunting obstacle many people are faced with. Working out our place in what should be a neutral ground is a challenging feat. Pattie has managed to carve out a space for herself on the trails despite these challenges. She described her reception in the outdoor world as polarizing; people either love Pattie or hate her. A point Wyn was intent on emphasizing, however, was his role as a straight-passing, white man. Though hiking in leather boots and a bold lip is certainly not the easiest way to blend in, he explained that “a lot of my life isn’t easy, but it’s easier than most”, referring to the unique experiences of visible minorities in the outdoor industry.

"For the longest time I loved the outdoors and for the longest time, I really cherished my queer identity. And I felt like the two had to be so separate because I thought that the outdoors was this masculine story.​"
Wyn Wiley

The ability to present as straight in his daily life has also contributed to Wyn’s love of drag. Starting out in the drag world, he said, “I think there was a lot of femininity that needed to release inside of me, and I think that there was a lot of life, coming from Nebraska, that kept me really closeted even though I was out as a gay man, and drag was that freedom to me.

“Drag is just a beautiful freedom that lets me keep on pursuing what it’s like to explore femininity and the outdoors and to do drag in a space that I love so much.”

The outdoors do not take notice of gender identity or sexual orientation and so nature, in an ideal world, should be an equalizer. The outdoor adventure industry need not be gendered, and yet it is. This is something I have been pondering in my role at CPCIL and was something I was eager to discuss with Wyn.

“I think it’s important to have drag and LGBTQ representation in the outdoor community because queer people have always been in the outdoors,” Wyn said. 

“People just haven’t been turning their eyes on them. I think we’ve spent so long in an outdoor industry, an outdoor community looking for really traditional hero stories, often in tune with masculinity and the hero’s quest, and a lot of this conquering mindset. I’m here and I think a lot of queer people are here to find the outdoors as a place for healing and for community and for joy. I think also there’s this narrative in queer culture to run to metropolitan cities for acceptance  — I want people to run into the woods for acceptance, to get lost a little bit and to find way more about who they are. I think there’s a lot of beauty to be found there.”

Wyn also emphasized the importance of increasing representation of LGBTQ+ people in the outdoors as an issue of safety. The outdoors should be a safe space for all, and increasing queer visibility is one way to show the LGBTQ+ community that there is a safe space for them in the outdoors. 

Wyn was first introduced to the outdoors through the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts have often been criticized for their role in promoting heteronormativity in the outdoors and excluding queer and gender non-conforming children and staff. When asked about his experience, Wyn replied that he was grateful for an avenue into the outdoors, but that children now are exposed to much healthier and safer ways to access the outdoors through organizations such as Unlikely Hikers and other queer-friendly organizations

Intersectional Environmentalism

Wyn’s commitment to activism is something that I think resonates with several Parks communities. Working in conservation is not simply a day job — for many, it becomes a lifestyle. We think about it every time we use single-use plastics or hop on an airplane. The same is true for Wyn. 

I asked him how he avoids burnout from the constant pressure from both the LGBTQ+ community and the environmental community, as well as the pressure he puts on himself to do his part. It turns out, the CPCIL community is not so different from the world of eco-drag. We all turn to the outdoors when we get overwhelmed. Wyn periodically escapes to the wilderness, unplugs, and unwinds with our closest mutual friend — Mother Nature. In his own words, “rest is a radical act of resistance”.

Pattie’s commitment to environmentalism does not stop at activism, however. She incorporates sustainability into her drag in the form of upcycled costuming. She sports wigs and gowns made out of sea debris, trash from quarantine, and old newspapers. In a documentary called Dear Mother Nature, created in collaboration with the outdoor company, REI, Pattie wears a gown made entirely of repurposed plastic bags. At her Sundance debut, where she presented the film, she wore a gown curated out of upcycled tutus, old sweatshirts, towels, and jeans. I asked Wyn how Pattie’s ecowarrior persona has affected his daily life. He first corrected me, saying he felt more like an “eco-muggle”, but went on to explain.

“I’m very much just trying to figure this out like everyone is, but I think realistic change happens when I can wake up and be one per cent more of an ally to the world than I was the day before,” he said. “And when I say the world, I mean to people and our planet because I think that environmentalism needs to be intersectional. We need to ally each other as diverse groups of people and we need to ally for all marginalized communities, and I think we need to ally for nature as well. I’m learning so much every day just how possible it is to wake up and be one percent better. It’s never going to look like these big flashy changes in my life. The work is the little one percent things in the cracks; all the nooks and crannies where I can bring kindness into the world or where I can use one less piece of plastic or where I can learn one more thing or unlearn one more thing. I count all of that as caring for our environment.”

It turns out we are not so different from the heel stomping drag queen that is Pattie Gonia. We are all just trying our best to reduce our environmental impact on this world and spread the word however we can. When I asked Wyn what Pattie’s next steps are, he told me he’s going to continue to fill the niche he currently occupies. Pattie has created a unique platform and will continue to speak out for the environment in the way that only she can. Wyn concluded our interview with this gentle reminder: “never forget that what you do is activism too, just behind the scenes”. So, I’ll task you, reader, with the same thing. Never forget that what you do is activism and is making a difference, whether it is writing policy to protect ecosystem services, interviewing a drag queen, or gluing on a lace front wig and taking it to the trails.

 

* A note about pronouns: In this piece, with permission from Wyn, I have used both male and female pronouns for Pattie/Wyn interchangeably. Wyn gave me the following explanation of the importance of using the correct pronouns, which I think is a useful introduction or refresher for anyone uncomfortable or unsure about the concept:

“Pronouns are a way that allies can show their love and respect for queer people. When we say pronouns, they’re not just our chosen pronouns, they are our pronouns. I think that there’s a connotation out there that these are our chosen pronouns when really, it’s not how we identify, it’s what our identity is. Pronouns are as easy as just using the kind of gender identifiers that people want to use. I think it’s a really safe bet if you don’t know someone’s pronouns to just assume they/them pronouns so as not to possibly misgender them. I think they/them pronouns is becoming an identity that a lot of queer people find home in. Merriam-Webster just updated the definition of they/them in the dictionary to mean nonbinary pronouns. Entering words into our normal vocabulary like queer, nonbinary, and they/them pronouns, can really help us create an inclusive space for all.”

If you would like to learn more about other people in the outdoor community doing excellent work to promote LGBTQ+ representation and other forms of intersectional environmentalism, please check out the following for a brief introduction.

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Launch of PanCanadian Parks and Protected Areas Research Network

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In October, 2019, a diverse group of parks and protected areas researchers, practitioners, students, community partners, and knowledge holders held a full-day workshop to ask “how can we work together to improve parks and protected areas research, knowledge mobilization, & the development of advice for evidence-based decision-making.” 

Despite the disruptions of recent months, CPCIL has made progress behind the scenes with support from Parks Canada, the Canadian Parks Council, and our collaborating universities of Mount Royal University, York Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, and Royal Roads University. We are pleased to announce the launch of the Pan-Canadian Parks and Protected Areas Research Network as part of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (CPCIL). 

This will be a new network for scientists, researchers, Indigenous knowledge holders, and students to connect and collaborate with parks and protected areas leaders, specialists, practitioners, and managers. Over the next three years, we will work with the parks and protected areas community to:

  1. Connect a network of researchers and practitioners, focusing on landscape-level networks and links to other existing networks.
  2. Share existing knowledge by curating and presenting transdisciplinary research in inclusive ways, highlighting practitioners and areas of expertise, and identifying mutually beneficial research ideas.
  3. Support academics, practitioners, journalists, elected officials, and decision makers in understanding and applying evidence in parks and protected areas.
  4. Build an intergenerational, interdisciplinary, inter-industry, and intercultural conversation about the value of parks and protected areas research.

The platform includes space to search profiles and connect with others, a tool to crowdsource research ideas, and space to share resources and highlight research and scholarship publications and events. We are also teaming up with Parks Canada to launch a Parks and Protected Areas Horizon Scan through the research network.

We invite you and your associates to join us on virtually on November 10th at 1pm Eastern Time to hear about the network, explore the platform, and engage in dialogue with others interested in parks and protected areas research and knowledge. A recording will be made available in the future.

Register for the November 10, 1pm Eastern, Launch and Dialogues

English Language Registration

French Language Simulcast Inscrivez-vous

Visit the Research Network: https://cpcil.ca/research-and-knowledge/

 

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CPCIL Webinar: Starting a Conversation on Conservation Mental Health

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March 5, 2020

1pm Eastern/10am Pacific

Register for Webinar

An emerging theme of recent CPCIL Park Leaders Development Programs is the need to support the mental health and wellbeing of people who work for park agencies, often on the front lines of climate change, natural disasters, and biodiversity loss and nearly always passionate professionals who feel deep personal commitment to the work of adaptation, recovery, protection and restoration. This webinar will showcase capstone team projects from the spring 2019 Park Leaders Development cohort on the topic of conservation mental health.

This webinar also features the author of the upcoming book

Taking a Break from Saving the World
A Conservation Activist’s Journey from Burnout to Balance
by Stephen Legault
(release date May 5, 2020)

Panelists          

Stephen Legault

Author, Photographer, Consultant

Members of the Spring 2019 Park Leaders Development Program

Parks Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Parks, BC Parks, Sépaq, and Nunavut Parks.

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

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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.

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Solo Tasks of the Spring 2019 Park Leaders Development Program

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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

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Solo Tasks of the 2018 Park Leaders Development Program

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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

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Service-learning during the Spring 2019 Park Leaders Development Program

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The wind is whipping the branches of the white pine, there’s a loon calling from somewhere in the half-darkness, and a constant threat of a downpour in Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve.  Our group has just heard from staff of Ontario Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about the challenges faced in managing this Conservation Reserve.  We break into small groups to consider what we’ve heard – who’s involved, what’s happening, why, and what matters most.  We’re starting to form some recommendations based on our collective cross-Canada experience in parks and protected areas management.  All before 7:00 a.m.

This is service-learning.  We are 21 participants in the CPCIL Park Leaders Development Program. We come from 10 agencies and represent nearly all the regions of Canada.  The goal is for our group to make a meaningful contribution towards solving a real problem while having a learning experience.  Field trips are usually fun, but this is better.  This means something.  The Conservation Reserve managers are genuinely interested in our ideas on what ways there are to approach their challenges, or what next steps they can consider trying.  We are equally grateful for the opportunity to apply the techniques we’ve been learning in the classroom to something that hasn’t already been figured out, that doesn’t have an answer yet.

It’s fitting to arrive in Canada’s first Dark Sky Preserve before dawn.  The early morning start and accompanying sunrise ceremony led by an elder from Shawanaga First Nation help us focus.  We haven’t had to make any decisions yet today.  There haven’t been any conference calls, or emails marked as urgent to drain our brain power.  We need only to listen.

Everything we’ve heard from our hosts this morning and that we’ve learned from each other so far this week points to relationships as being the key.  We come back together and share our take on the situation. Every group recommends spending time investing in relationships and suggests opportunities for collaboration with community partners.  Nobody says it will be a fast process, or without conflict.  No doubt the Conservation Reserve managers already know this to be the right thing to do.  Sometimes, just the reminder that across the country we face similar challenges and work towards similar goals is enough to keep us moving forward.

It’s been refreshing to spend some time on a problem that isn’t ours.  That separation made constraints disappear and ideas flow. Equally refreshing was spending some time in a beautiful place. Thank you to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and to Ontario Parks for inviting us. 

Check out the Innovator’s Compass, the tool we used during this service-learning experience to analyze the situation and make recommendations, at https://innovatorscompass.org/.

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Leadership and Parkanomics: The Fall 2018 Park Leaders Development Program

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After several weeks of pre-residency work–preparing solo presentations on economic challenges facing park agencies and posting reflections on a leadership article and a CPC financial sustainability video–21 Park Leaders from across Canada gathered in Canmore Alberta for the first residency of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership.

Participants included managers, superintendents, planners, and programmers from regions across Canada. The majority came from Parks Canada–though several of these federal Park Leaders were meeting for the first time–as well as BC Parks, Alberta Parks, Saskatchewan Parks, Manitoba Parks, Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq), Northwest Territories Environment & Natural Resources, and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Hosted in the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse for the week, the group gave presentations, collaborated on capstone team projects, and built networks that will last beyond the program. Workshops throughout the residency included:

  • Dr. Joe Pavelka from Mount Royal University on valuing parks and the business of park visitation.
  • Dr. Connie Van der Byl from the Institute for Environmental Sustainability at Mount Royal University on strategic sustainability and the tensions of park revenue and conservation.
  • Dr. Andrew Bear Robe from Bear Robe Consulting and the Piikani Nation on economic development as an act of reconciliation.
  • Sylvie Plante, PhD (candidate) from Royal Roads University on Social Capital and Collaborative Innovation, and
  • Dr. Don Carruthers Den Hoed from Mount Royal University and the CPCIL project on leadership in parks and protected areas.
  • William Snow from the Stoney Nakoda First Nations on Indigenous ways of knowing and cultural monitoring.

While evenings were free for networking, there were two memorable events, including a fireside chat with CPC Park Leadership alumni Peter Swain, Nadine Spence, and Kathie Adare and an informal conversation with Acting Parks Canada General Director, Michael Nadler.

In addition, the group participated in two field experiences, the first focused on innovative approaches to economic sustainability, and the second built around the idea of contributing to the park community, as the CPCIL Park Leaders is tended to local challenges and provided feedback for park managers and programmers. The former included a trip to the Calgary Zoo to explore their visionary approach to becoming Canada’s leading wildlife conservation agency and a stop at Glenbow Ranch to explore private land conservation and other effective conservation mechanisms with Guy Greenaway from the Miistakis Institute. The latter included a site tour of the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, a visit to the Peter Lougheed Discovery Centre in Kananaskis Country, and a stop at the Morley Artisans Flea Market. In all cases, the hosts appreciated the conversations and ideas generated by the Park Leadership Development Development Program participants.

Having returned home from the Rocky Mountains and to the reality of daily work, all the participants are focused on their solo tasks–working with the program facilitator to create outreach projects to bring leadership learning back to their home agencies–and their capstone team projects. These projects reflect collaborative approaches to looking at parks in new ways and aim to do things such as

  • compile success stories of social capital and community relationships
  • build an initial database of Indigenous partnerships with park agencies
  • create a tool for valuing park agencies as partners–and for finding the right partners, and
  • reviewing a Visitor Use Management Framework BC Parks is developing and piloting its application to other jurisdictions.

Capstone projects are expected to be complete by mid April and will be posted on the park leaders development program page.

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