Healthy Parks and Philanthropy Opportunities

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.

Rachel DeGreef currently works as a Partnerships and Philanthropy Assistant at Ontario Parks. Her skills and interest in customer service and relationship-based communications led her to the current role of Partnerships and Philanthropy Assistant, where she is responsible for promoting and accepting donations on behalf of Ontario Parks. In addition to this, her interest and passion for ecological integrity has built a foundation for this role where she is able share the importance of leaving a legacy in the name of sustainability and future visitor enjoyment in Ontario Parks.

Evidence shows that parks and green and outdoor spaces are beneficial for our overall health and well-being.  Park prescriptions (PaRx) now also form part of the medical and health prescription tool kit. The emerging concept of palliative parks is based on the impact of time in nature for end-of-life care, even if it’s just finding peace in oneself or finding understanding for grief and loss. While park agencies recognize the value of nature for health, most of these organizations are not directly in the business of offering wellbeing or palliative care services. This case study highlights practical ways of growing capacity for new parks initiatives through philanthropic and volunteer practices in parks. 

Ontario Parks is committed to promoting healthy parks, healthy people programs, and philanthropy and volunteering are crucial for them to provide these benefits to park lovers while still achieving parks’ mandates. Philanthropy and volunteering can even accomplish more than just providing funds and time. 

A collaboration story by Park People on “The Role of Philanthropy in Parks notes that philanthropy in parks also presents an opportunity to promote racial equality and support priority /underrepresented groups like Black and Indigenous communities. According to Park People, there is value “beyond the dollars and cents” which arises from park philanthropy. Another important aspect of philanthropy is its “community capacity and stewardship-building element… Philanthropic projects can also help bring people together. While solely city-funded park projects include community engagement elements, the quality of that engagement can be different when community members are more directly involved in raising funds, conceiving of a project themselves, or both.”  

One set of philanthropic opportunities available in parks is being a donor. There are lots of opportunities to donate toward parks, often indirectly through non-profit agencies. Ontario Parks, in listing some of the notable accomplishments of Friends of Ontario Parks (some independent, not-for-profit charitable organizations that are “dedicated to supplementing and enhancing the unique educational, recreational, research and resource protection mandates” of parks), listed their involvement in the boardwalk and observatory at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, an accessible trail at Mashkinonje Provincial Park, Huron Fringe Birding Festival at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Art in the Park at Bon Echo Provincial Park and Footprints In Time Trail (FITT trail) at Bonnechere Provincial Park. Some donation opportunities listed by Ontario Parks also include the Turtle protection project (aimed at helping “All 8 of Ontario’s turtle species are now ‘at risk’”), the discovery program (aimed at supporting educational programs offered in Ontario Parks and in-school program), the trails & recreation (aimed at trail maintenance and restoration and developing new recreation spaces), and so on.  

Legacy gifts, or planned donations given as part of your estate or will, also form an important part of philanthropic opportunities in Ontario Parks. In seeking to promote legacy giving, Ontario Parks has made it easy for interested donors to leave a legacy to Ontario Parks by providing all information that is necessary and required to leave an effective legacy gift.  Despite the challenges of not having an online donation platform, Ontario Parks is taking advantage of secondary online charity profiles, such as CanadaHelps, and receiving donations over the phone in order to boost more philanthropy opportunities.  

Another set of opportunities that are available is volunteering with parks. BC Parks, in listing some of the numerous ways in which volunteers may participate and share their knowledge and skills with parks, noted these as including supporting conservation and recreation projects, trail maintenance, learning new skills and sharing valuable skills and knowledge while making a positive impact, building friendships and community; helping conserve biodiversity, taking part in environmental restoration, long term ecological monitoring & ecological inventories, invasive plant control, ecological reserve warden program; park management and planning; as well as facility restoration. 

Image by: DuPreez (2019)

Interested in volunteering?

Here are some volunteer opportunities associated with Parks Canada in Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Additional numerous opportunities also exist in each provincial park agency, a simple online search of the term “Volunteer Opportunities (with the name of a park agency)” reveals some of these opportunities for example “Volunteer opportunities BC Parks”. We encourage you to share links to volunteer programs in the comments below or on the CPCIL opportunities board.

The goal of parks includes to create access for all and to make sure that everyone, regardless of their individual situation or socioeconomic status, has access to whatever park, they desire to visit. Philanthropic opportunities in parks can help in achieving this goal. 

References: 

BC Parks. (n.d.). Volunteer in BC Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://bcparks.ca/volunteers/ 

Park People. (2021). The Role of Philanthropy in Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://ccpr.parkpeople.ca/2021/sections/collaboration/stories/the-role-of-philanthropy-in-parks 

PaRx. (2022). A Prescription for Nature. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.parkprescriptions.ca/

Ontario Parks. (2022). Friends of Ontario Parks. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/friends 

Ontario Parks. (2022). Ontario Parks Donations. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/donate  

Ontario Parks. (2022). Legacy Giving. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.ontarioparks.com/donate/legacygiving 

Parks Canada. (n.d.). Volunteer Opportunities. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/agence-agency/benevolat-volunteering/vol-ben07 

 

Photos:

Benna, M. (2018). Stanley Park. [image]. Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://unsplash.com/photos/SBiVq9eWEtQ  

DuPreez, P. (2019). Friends. [image] Retrieved March 25, 2022 from https://unsplash.com/photos/gYdjZzXNWlg