What made 2019 an epic year in parks

January 10, 2020

Jodi Lastman

We are blown away by what we were able to collectively achieve in 2019. Whether you’re part of a community park group, a non-profit, a park professional, a municipal staff member or funder, you have been part of an epic year in city parks, and we thank you.

In 2020, stay in the know about funding, events, reports and more by signing up for the Park People Newsletter. You don’t want to miss any of what we have planned.

1. Collectively realizing the power of parks at Park People’s 2019 National Conference in Montreal

From reconciliation to climate change to equity, Canada’s most pressing and poignant social and environmental issues were surfaced at Park People’s 2019 Heart of the City Conference in Montreal.

Against the backdrop of iconic Montreal parks, our national conference brought together 200 park professionals and community leaders, featured 20+ diverse workshops and tours and connected people from 34 cities.

Among the highlights were keynote presentations from Rena Soutar, the first Reconciliation Planner at Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and Jérôme Dupras, bassist for the Cowboys Fringants and President of the Fondation pour la protection de l’environnement (Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.).

This biennial gathering is where park leaders and champions from across the country gather to learn and connect with one another. A special thank you to our presenting sponsor TD Bank Group, who made the conference possible through their global corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment.

2. Ensuring the best city park practices spread through the Canadian City Parks Report

 

Snakes and Ladders Park, City of Richmond Hill

In its inaugural year, 23 municipalities signed on to participate in the Canadian City Parks Report tracking the trends, challenges, and leading practices in city parks across Canada.

Supported by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the report looks at city parks through the lens of 5 key themes and tracked how cities are performing.

The groundbreaking report, which was launched in June, was widely covered by the media, including stories in the Montreal Gazette, CBC and the Globe and Mail. We dove deep into topics covered in the report including how parks impact climate change, community health, biodiversity and seniors’ fitness.

The 2020 Canadian City Parks report will feature 29 cities and all new content. It will launch across Canada in June.

3. Making Green Spaces People Places with TD Park People Grants

 

In our most recent survey of city park groups across Canada, 78% of respondents said that raising funds is the single greatest challenge they face. The TD Park People Grants were created to help close this gap and help transform our green spaces into people places.

In the second year of the program, we expanded the TD Park People Grants program to 75 community groups and 225 park-based events in Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax Regional Municipality.

From a Vancouver community BBQ where 100 people gathered together for a free outdoor meal served on a 30ft long table, to a Zero Waste picnic at a Toronto park, offering people new ways to reduce their environmental footprint, the grants continue to demonstrate the incredible creativity of community park groups across Canada.

The grants are supported through TD Bank Group’s global corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment.

Mark your calendars. The next round of TD Park People Grants open on January 15th, 2020 and will feature more cities and park events than ever.

4. Innovation and Animation with Public Space Incubator

 

The second year of the Public Space Incubator program continued to deliver wild and innovative ideas to bring people together in Toronto’s public spaces.

In 2019, Public Space Incubator funded projects manifested in every corner of Toronto. Among the many highlights was Red Embers, a major collaborative art installation in Toronto’s Allan Gardens that honoured Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. We were also blown away by WexPops, a pop-up park in a privately-owned public space (POPS) in one of Toronto’s emblematic inner-suburban strip malls.

Watch out this spring as PSI helps support Indigenous ceremony, planting, and harvesting in a Parkdale community garden, cultivates neighbourhood programming at a strip mall at Jane and Finch, revitalizes an under-used park pavilion along the Humber River Trail, and more.

The Public Space Incubator was generously funded by Ken and Eti Greenberg and Balsam Foundation.

5. Rediscovering the Joy of Nature with Nature Valley

 

In 2019, Nature Valley joined forces with Park People to help Canadians rediscover the joy of nature. Nature Valley supported 14 awesome events that connected Canadians to nature including Still Moon Arts Society’s Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival which celebrated the harvest moon with a lantern-lit moonlight parade where live music played as darkness fell.

 

Nature Valley also launched a powerful multimedia advertising campaign to encourage more Canadians to spend time in nature– a message we know will make Canadians healthier and happier in 2020.

6. Seniors Connect to Each other and the Outdoors through Manulife Walk in the Park

 

While senior citizens represent 20% of the general population, they only constitute 4% of park users. Park People and Manulife launched Manulife Walk in the Park to get more seniors to experience the benefits of walking together in parks.

As a result of the program, seniors accessed 1250 accessible outdoor walking opportunities in underserved community parks, breaking down isolation, building social bonds, growing trust and improving physical and mental health.

The program had an incredible impact. 99% of Manulife Walk in the Park participants said they plan to continue walking regularly and 96% said that Manulife Walk in the Park helped people in their community get to know each other better.

7. Community development through parks at the heart of the Sparking Change program

The Sparking Change program works with community groups in underserved neighbourhoods to provide them with the training, networks, seed funding and one-on-one coaching they need to make their parks more vibrant and their neighbourhoods stronger.

In 2019, with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Park People applied its knowledge of best practices on how to maximize the social impact of parks in underserved neighbourhoods.

Among the many incredible projects supported by the Sparking Change program is the community-led effort to reanimate and revitalize the huge Rowntree Mills Park. Once called Toronto’s saddest park, events like a “netwalk” (a play on “network), hosted by community champion Ellie Hudon, played a key role in reopening the space to cars, making it accessible to many more people from the community. In 2020 more events at Rowntree Mills will draw the community to the park to help them reimagine the park’s future as the community’s back yard.

Sparking Change also helped connect residents to trees at Toronto Community Housing properties. Park People worked with LEAF, Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) and the City of Toronto (Urban Forestry branch) to engage the community in choosing the right native trees for their properties, to consult with residents to select the best locations for the trees and establish tree-care teams made up of TCHC residents who watered the trees weekly and provided ongoing care, such as mulching, as needed.

Each property’s unique approach to the consultations and tree teams demonstrated that communities are a lot like forests. Each has an ecosystem all its own.

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