Launching the 2020 Canadian City Parks Report
July 15, 2020
We’re excited today to launch our second annual Canadian City Parks Report and the results of our just-released survey on how COVID has impacted park use in Canada.
In the report, you’ll find key data from 27 Canadian cities. You can also explore the report through its five themes—nature, growth, collaboration, activation, and inclusion—where you’ll find indicators and statistics as well as stories that showcase challenges, opportunities, and leading practices in Canada’s city parks
Work on this report started in October 2019 and while we incorporated the emerging impacts of COVID-19, much was still in flux at the time of this report’s final writing.
As we worked on this report’s stories about biodiversity, creative park development, community engagement, and homelessness, the world changed around us. But it quickly became apparent that these stories were not made irrelevant, but more urgent than ever.
- Nearly two-thirds of cities reported protecting biodiversity and enhancing natural areas as a top challenge, while only 1 in 5 reported having a citywide biodiversity strategy in place.
- Nature experiences are in demand as 70% of cities reported increasing demand for park naturalization projects and 56% of cities reported increasing demand for volunteer stewardship opportunities.
- The top three challenges identified by cities were keeping pace with growth, ageing infrastructure, and insufficient operating budgets, yet only 63% of cities reported park system master plans that address growth needs.
- Despite public health recommendations that unhoused people living outdoors should be allowed to remain in place, we found that only 16% of cities paused encampment clearances in parks during COVID-19. We also found that 41% of Canadians would like to see better integration of services for people experiencing homelessness in parks.
For a full set of key findings, read the Executive Summary.
Over the next year, we will be reviewing how COVID-19 impacts Canadian parks, building on the ideas in this report. To read more about our thoughts about parks and COVID-19, please read this special blog post. And keep in touch with our continuing analysis on parks and COVID-19 on social media and by signing up for our newsletter.
This year’s report includes a special focus on urban biodiversity, including a look at small-scale projects, habitat connectivity, community involvement, and mental well-being. You can see the data, resources, and stories we’ve collected at this special section on the report website.
There’s a lot in the report, so here are five great stories to start with:
- The Feel Good Factor: An exploration of new research that has uncovered how green spaces rich in biodiversity are better for our mental health and well being. Read more.
- Deepening the Conservation Conversation: A look at how to both broaden and deepen the conversation about urban biodiversity to include more people and recognize traditional knowledge through promoting Indigenous land stewardship. Read more.
- Park equity: COVID-19 has had a profound impact on lower-income communities and neighbourhoods that have higher proportions of Black residents and recent immigrants. We speak with experts on how to ensure equitable park development is prioritized as part of the COVID-19 recovery. Read more.
- Don’t just tick the box: Community involvement shouldn’t end when the ribbon is cut on a new park. We speak to experts about how to bring new people into the conversation and ensure park amenities are well-used. Read more.
- Homelessness: With encampments on the rise due to COVID-19, there is a pressing need to ensure the well-being of people residing in parks. This special series explores the value of parks as places of shelter and support, and shares recommendations for inclusive practices from researchers, advocates, and encampment leaders. Read more.
Please also join us for a special webinar on Thursday, July 23 that will dive into the major findings of the report and our national survey on parks use and COVID.
We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to The W. Garfield Weston Foundation for its foundational support in the creation and launch of this report.
We would also like to thank RBC for its support of the Nature section’s biodiversity stories, stats, and online Biodiversity Resource Hub. Finally, we would like to thank the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation for its support of the research into small-scale urban biodiversity projects.
A report of this size is a team effort. First, huge thanks to the dozens of city staff that worked with us to compile city data, answer our questions, and respond to interview requests. We know this takes a tremendous amount of work and this report is not possible without you.
Lastly, thank you to the entire Park People team for their support and input.