New Parks for New Connections: Expanding our Cornerstone Network

avril 16, 2024
Park People

Park People is thrilled to announce three new partners within our growing national network of Cornerstone Parks: the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition in Edmonton, AB; Toronto Botanical Garden in Toronto, ON; and Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, NS.  

Launched in 2021, Cornerstone Parks is the only national network dedicated to maximizing the impact and influence of Canada’s large urban parks. These are critical spaces for people living in cities to build meaningful connections to nature and each other, and they give cities a head start when mitigating the impacts of climate change. 

Large urban parks often require more maintenance, operations, and programming resources, as well as innovative solutions to their unique challenges. Cornerstone Parks convenes organizations working in parks across Canada through a community of practice. The program supports them through direct funding for community stewardship and restoration, capacity-building within and between park groups (especially in equity-deserving communities), and measuring and storytelling the impact of our collective work.

Our New Cornerstone Parks Partners

The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition, Toronto Botanical Garden, and Ecology Action Centre join the program’s three founding partners – Stanley Park Ecology Society in Vancouver, BC; High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, ON; and Les Amis de la montagne in Montreal, QC – as well as returning 2023 partners the Everett Crowley Park Committee and Free the Fern Stewardship Society in Vancouver, BC; Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, SK; Rowntree Mills Park in Toronto, ON; and Darlington Ecological Corridor in Montreal, QC. 


Protect the Trees campaign at Hawrelak Park, credit Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition volunteer


The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition (ERVCC) is dedicated to the protection, preservation, and regeneration of the North Saskatchewan River Valley and Ravine System in Edmonton, AB. The river valley is an 18,000-acre “ribbon of green” forming the largest expanse of urban parkland in Canada. The volunteer-led Coalition collaborates with many conservation groups and initiatives – including Swim Drink Fish, Edmonton Native Plant Society, Shrubscriber, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Edmonton’s Root for Trees – to support conservation and restoration through knowledge-sharing, co-stewardship, public education, and political advocacy. 

Through Cornerstone, they aim to accelerate the number of trees and plants planted alongside Root for Trees, enhance water monitoring with Swim Drink Fish, support the Tree Equity Program and Bird Friendly Edmonton, and pilot a new trail restoration program with their City. All this while creating employment opportunities that elevate people-power over carbon and exploring future designation as a National Urban Park


Toronto Botanical Garden Wilderness Camp, credit Toronto Botanical Garden


Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) offers an array of gardens spanning nearly four acres in Toronto, ON, adjacent to the Don Valley Ravine, Wilket Creek, and Edwards Gardens. They’re currently undergoing a landmark expansion across a 35-acre site, re-aligning their efforts to become a purpose-led botanical garden, cultivating a community with a profound connection to nature, and inspiring impact in their unique ecosystem and beyond.

With Cornerstone support, Toronto Botanical Garden will pilot a series of activities – including accessible ravine tours, citizen science initiatives, seed saving, and a fall festival coinciding with City of Toronto Ravine Days – to help communities engage more deeply with their local ravine systems and support ecological restoration efforts.


Sandy Lake in Halifax, credit Kortney Dunsby Ecology Action Centre 


The Ecology Action Centre has operated as a member-based environmental charity in Nova Scotia since 1971. Their efforts to establish a Halifax greenbelt – a thriving and protected network of parks and greenspaces – have led to strong partnerships with local conservation organizations representing three key locations: Purcells Cove Backlands, Blue-Mountain Birch Cove Lakes, and Sandy Lake-Sackville River

As a Cornerstone partner, the Ecology Action Centre will expand its existing hike series to improve public awareness and engagement within these parks, initiate research on local invasive species through citizen science programs, and pilot new activities like park user surveys. They will support Blue-Mountain Birch Cove Lakes as they, too, explore future designation as a National Urban Park


New Parks for New Connections

Welcoming new partners into the Cornerstone Parks program helps us to make different (yet equally critical) connections: between parks in the same municipalities and across different municipalities; between long-established and newly-emerging park-based organizations; and between different types of large urban parks, as shaped by our changing cities.     

By fostering relationships between different parks within the same urban centres – Vancouver, Edmonton and Saskatoon, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax – Cornerstone Parks enables peer-to-peer support where challenges like invasive plant species, wildlife interactions, and the impacts of climate change (as well as local policies to address them) are often the same. By creating dialogues between cities, the program exposes park groups to new (and shared) challenges and demonstrates novel models of collaboration and co-governance to help surface transferrable solutions.

Since 2021, the program has evolved to address the fact that there are many different types of large urban parks. This includes historically prioritized destination parks like our founders, Stanley Park in Vancouver, High Park in Toronto, and Mount Royal in Montreal. It also includes  “adaptive reuse” projects like Everett Crowley Park and its connecting Champlain Heights trail system in Vancouver and the Darlington Ecological Corridor in Montreal – a former landfill site and rail corridor, respectively – whose revitalization creates new and essential green spaces for equity-deserving communities. It further includes connective parks like ravines, river valleys, and greenbelts that continue to resist urban development as cities rapidly grow around them. 


Canada’s large urban parks are vital nature spaces that deserve our support. Whatever their location and history, and however long their organizational legacy of conservation and care, they all provide critical nature and community connections to people living in cities. 

Cornerstone Parks enjoy benefits that they, in turn, multiply and extend to the urbanized, often equity-deserving communities who visit them. They do this through accessible programs and opportunities that measurably improve park users’ and volunteers’ physical health, mental health, and overall well-being. A win for these parks is a win for communities.  

The Cornerstone Parks program is honoured to play a role in providing shared resources, networking and capacity-building, impact measurement and storytelling, and overall advocacy to help support the continued growth of our new partners, the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition, Toronto Botanical Garden, and Ecology Action Centre, and uplift the ongoing work of all our Cornerstone Parks. 

Made possible by the generous support of an anonymous donor, the Hilary and Galen Weston Foundation and

TD Ready Commitment
Parks Canada