The park people have spoken! Responses from last year’s Park People Survey guide our work as we continue to help you make awesome things happen in city parks.

We hope that the survey will also help you to see your work in a broader context.  What do park groups see as their primary focus? What are the main challenges they face? These are the questions you can find addressed by our survey results.

Before we delve in, we would first like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated. We are truly grateful to be part of such an engaged and expanding network that provides us with meaningful and thoughtful input to inform our work.

Park groups build social connections:

 We work in a mixed-income community and have been using the garden as a tool of bringing people from diverse backgrounds together” –Riverside Green Initiative

For the first time ever, this year’s survey shows that social connectedness underlies people’s decision to join or start a community park group.  In previous surveys, people have said that, primarily, their park group was valuable because it helped them engage in greening initiatives.

This is an important finding. It shines a light on the fact that park groups not only provide social connectedness to communities by animating their parks, but that park groups are, in and of themselves, a way for people to find and foster community connections.

  • 70% of survey respondents said that their main reason for getting involved with park activities was to meet their neighbours and other members of the community.

At a time when people are increasingly facing social isolation and living in dense urban environments, park groups build connections.

At the same time, park groups say the primary focus of their group’s work is to build community cohesion.

  • 78% of park groups said that their group’s focus is “hosting events to bring the community together.”

Park groups say they have acquired new knowledge and skills as a result of being involved with their local park groups:

  • 79% said that they have developed increased awareness about how to protect and enhance green spaces as a result of their role in a park group
  • 69% said that they have developed a keener sense of civic engagement and have learned how to work more effectively with their local Councilor’s office as well as city staff.

 

 An animated movement:

“Our volunteer activities and advocacy have brought 20% more visitors to Guild Park in 2017” –Friends of Guild Park and Gardens

In the last year, the community park groups that responded hosted 639 community events in their parks. These events were made possible through the tireless efforts of 4,632 volunteers and engaged an astounding 54,036 participants.

The efforts of park groups are making a difference. In fact, 76.2% of park groups found an increase in the general use and enjoyment of their community parks as a result of their events, activities and outreach efforts.

“We are seeing a wider range of people in the park. Not simply kids and parents/caregivers.” –Friends of Masaryk Park & Melbourne Parkette

Obstacles:

In addition to the many positive insights, the survey helped identify some of the common stumbling blocks that park groups face. Some of the most common obstacles park groups experience are:

  • 54%-Maintaining a group of dedicated volunteers
  • 49%-Accessing funds and grants
  • 49%-Reaching out to the community to encourage attendance at events

Many groups also shared that permit and insurance costs and communicating with the City can be a challenging part of their work. However, at the same time, 68% of respondents to this year’s survey shared that they have experienced positive changes in working with Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation and their local Councilor’s office since they started working in their parks.

 

Addressing park groups’ biggest challenges:

Park People has been actively addressing the challenges park groups face through a number of initiatives we’ve launched in the past year. These include:

  • Grant programs that are easily accessible to park groups that might otherwise have difficulty accessing funds. For example, the TD Park People Grant program has helped fund over 160 grassroots park events in five cities across Canada.
  • Training initiatives.  We’ve held numerous in person and online training initiatives on topics such as volunteer engagement, outreach and marketing. We also hold our annual Summit, and in 2017 we held our first National Conference.
  • In response to demand from groups across Canada, we’ve developed an extensive online resource library which includes practical guides on subjects including marketing, fundraising, volunteer management and building partnerships.

 

Park People’s impact.

“I feel like we have gained insight into more possibilities for our park, in the way it is used. I really value being able to contact you by phone or email with any question about our park and have an educated and helpful response. I find my conversations and interactions with you inspiring and it motivates me to have our group do more in and for our park.” –Rosewood Taxpayers’ Association

When asked if you would recommend Park People to other community members, a resounding 92% of park groups said yes. We are thrilled to know that we have been able to meaningfully contribute to your efforts in engaging your local communities in parks and public spaces.

We were also thrilled to learn that, unanimously, community park groups are continuing to find real value in direct support from Park People Staff and in workshops and events like our Park Summit. In addition to these pieces, the top three ways that groups have experienced Park People’s impact are in helping them:

  1. Connect with other park groups,
  2. Feel like a part of the city park movement and
  3. Build partnerships with other organizations.

Our interactive park map is a great way for you to find other groups across Canada working on events and activities like yours. Be sure to check out the listings, add your park group and use the filter function to find groups that are undertaking activities similar to your own.

This survey was conducted amongst Toronto community park groups. Going forward, we look forward to getting feedback from our whole national network, which has now grown to include over 400 park groups across Canada.

We will continue to build opportunities to support your vital work in city parks. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to make sure that you stay in the loop about funding opportunities, events, resources and other offerings so that we can be of greater service to you. Thank you again to everyone for your thoughtful responses and we will look forward to seeing you out at your local park!

 

 

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