Mood walks: How to design nature walks to enhance mental health

It’s not just in your head. It’s been scientifically proven that nature is good for your mental health. A 2015 study published in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a ninety-minute walk in a natural setting has measurable mental health benefits. In the study, nature walks were shown to reduce “rumination” (thinking repeatedly about negative aspects of yourself) and brain scans showed less activity in a part of the brain associated with mental illness. Walking in an urban setting, by comparison, showed no such effects.

Rouge National Urban Park has partnered with Scarborough Health Network in Toronto to offer Mood Walks to young adults (16-35) who are experiencing mental health challenges. The walks take place every three weeks from May to November and continue monthly from December to April.

Created by the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario), Rouge Park’s Mood Walks program has several lessons on how to maximize the therapeutic benefits of nature.

Because of the location of Rouge National Urban Park, the Mood Walks make use of the Rouge River, Little Rouge Creek, and Highland Creek for excursions. Access to water plays a key role in the walks’ therapeutic benefits. Increasingly, researchers have found that access to water, or what’s frequently called “blue” spaces, play a vital role in enhancing psychological well-being.



Here are some ideas for how to leverage your ravine and park spaces to maximize their capacity to enhance participants’ mental health.

Set A Mental Health Intention

Before setting out on a nature walk of any kind, Jessica Yau, a Partnering and Engagement Officer at Rouge National Urban Park, asks participants to answer three questions:

  1. How happy are you right now?
  2. How anxious are you right now?
  3. How much energy do you have right now?

After the walks, participants are asked to respond to the same set of questions.

Invariably, people are happier, less anxious, and more energetic after the walks. But, asking these questions serves a higher purpose of having people be intentional about using the walks to lift their mood.

You can use other questions to set the tone of the walk such as:

It can be surprising, and wonderful to debrief about how the walk was able to impact one’s mood. Jessica recalls asking participants to share the best part of the walk.

One participant said “I liked not talking to anyone” while another responded, “we spotted the most beautiful woodpecker.” While nature tends to lift the spirits of participants, it does so differently for different people.

Create a Walk Experience

On one hand, as Jessica puts it, “nature is itself.” In other words, simply spending time in nature enhances one’s mental health. There are, however, opportunities to build in facilitation to maximize the walks’ impact.

First, Jessica emphasizes, it’s helpful to encourage participants to get to know one another before the walk begins. By bonding first, participants can use the walk to chat or share meaningful experiences. Of course, it’s vital to recognize that not everyone cares to socialize during the walk and that’s okay too.

Also, Jessica emphasizes the value of creating themed walks such as fall colours, forest bathing, salmon walk, or pollinators. The themes give people a clear idea of what to expect and give them something to look forward to.

Jessica shared how subject-matter experts and passionate facilitators can help create meaningful interactions with nature. During one pollinator walk in Toronto’s Rosetta McClain Gardens, a facilitator highlighted that while monarch and viceroy butterflies are nearly identical, the body of a monarch butterfly contains chemicals that make it taste bad—so bad that a bird may even vomit if it eats one.

To bring this concept to life, the facilitator walk leader baked butterfly-shaped cookies. Half of the cookies were loaded with salt while the others tasted delicious. When participants went to eat the cookies they learned a valuable, and memorable lesson about the difference between monarchs and viceroys. It’s a lesson the participants will not soon forget.

When planning any walk, be sure to consider topics such as participants’ walking pace, the route, and other key factors that are covered in Park People’s resource on planning park walks.

Plan for the Weather

When winter arrives, moods can drop along with the temperatures. But, Rouge National Urban Park and Scarborough Health Network continue their walks, even during inclement weather. There’s something about not just braving the elements but embracing them that lifts our spirits.



Jessica described one Mood Walk where the plan was to go snowshoeing but, the weather was too rainy and then icy. Instead of snowshoeing, they went “boot skating” and joyfully slid along the trails instead. The unpredictable nature of weather requires a certain amount of agility in planning. Use that to your advantage.

To make inclement weather more comfortable, Rouge National Urban Park and Scarborough Health Network worked together to establish a library of winter clothing that is housed at the hospital. That way, various sizes of coats, boots, hats, mitts are always available.

Be Guided by Nature

Jessica notes natural forms can provide built-in challenges for participants to take on at their own pace. For example, in Morningside Park, there’s a moderately sloped hill that leads to a beautiful lookout point. The hill is a manageable challenge for participants. When planning a walk, note the physical features that can offer meaningful and challenging experiences.

Ravines have a multitude of physical features, most notably water, which has a multitude of therapeutic properties.

Research shows that “water bodies score just as well – if not better – in supporting psychological well-being as compared with “green” nature.”

Consider how you can use beachfront space, the sounds of water, and water as a source of play and curiosity in your walks.

The Boxes of Curious Noticing: A Vancouver TD Park People Grant Project

While the pandemic has created numerous challenges in our communities, it has also spurred innovation and creativity at a time when we need it most. Over the summer, the Vancouver Learnary Society created Boxes of Curious Noticing, unique curated collections of games, books, questions, and adventures. Surya Govender, Co-Principal of the Learnary, said that the Boxes were designed “to spark curiosity in a new way.” The Boxes of Curious Noticing were supported through a TD Park People Grant.

The Learnary seeks to entice people to learn about their world in a new way.  In 2019, with funds from a TD Park People Grant, this creative community organization hosted nature based art events  in their local green space, Clinton Park. This year, with the pandemic limiting physical contact, Surya reflected on what could be done to spark curiosity while maintaining health and safety guidelines. Taking a walk through the Learnary’s shop, Surya found inspiration for the series of themes which led to the creation of the boxes. Through her networks, Surya found Mariska McLean, a carpentry apprentice, who built each custom wooden box by hand. 

The first box was themed ‘Animal’ and subsequent boxes were themed Land and Soil, Sky, and Ocean. Each box was filled with exciting and thoughtful activities for all ages, from an origami airplane kit to compelling books. Each box also included a blank postcard. After the recipient adds their address to the stamped postcard, it’s placed in another box so the next recipient can become a ‘pen pal,’ mailing along a message to another community member. Each box features a stamped and addressed postcard.  This novel idea was a wonderful way to connect neighbours with one another.

The Boxes have been warmly received by the community. People of all ages, have enjoyed the diverse activities and the opportunity to reconnect with nature as well as one another. 

Staying connected and engaged is now more important than ever. As Surya says:

 Tthose connections are what life is all about, it’s what saves us.”

Survya believes that community engagement is all that stands between us and loneliness, which we know takes a toll on our mental health. Through the The Boxes of Curious Knowing, The Learnery kept people connected to one another. “This is a small gesture. But small gestures add up,” she says.


Thanks to our generous supporters

Racism is a parks and public space issue

Systemic racism and white supremacy are prevalent and visible in our parks and public spaces where Black, Indigenous and racialized people experience suspicion, surveillance, harassment, violence and death.

Park People cannot achieve its mission to “activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities” without acknowledging that systemic racism, oppression, and injustice are part of the daily lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in parks and public spaces.

Park People’s work champions equity and inclusion. It is one of our core values, expressed as “parks are for everyone.” 

However, we must do more to address the fact that racist systems of gatekeeping in public spaces mean that, in practice, parks are not for everyone. It is our job to actively work with communities across Canada to disrupt and dismantle the implicit and explicit structures of power, privilege and racism in parks and public spaces. 

With humility, we admit that we are at the beginning of this process. This statement is a declaration of our intention to begin dismantling systemic racism as an organization including assessing our strategic plan, theory of change, programs and hiring, training and management practices. Coming out of this process we will establish a concrete organizational strategy to address systemic racism as Park People.   

We support and stand with Black, Indigenous and racialized people and we are committed to listening and learning from their voices to shape our actions as we move forward.

Here are some useful readings we’re reviewing to better educate ourselves. We hope you’ll join us.

Anti-racism readings

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are a few readings that have resonated with us in confronting the pervasiveness of racism, and specifically anti-Black and Indigenous racism, in the planning, design, and management of parks and public spaces both in the U.S. and Canada. 

Racism in Canada is Ever-Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial, Maija Kappler, May 2020

Subdivided, Ed. Jay Pitter and John Lorinc. 2016.

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present, Robyn Maynard, 2017.

Urban Density: Confronting the Distance between Desire and Disparity, Jay Pitter, April 2020

Why Race Matters in Planning Public Parks, Brentin Mock, March 2016

Public Space, Park Space, and Racialized Space, KangJae Lee, January 2020

Diversity? Inclusion? Let’s talk about racism first, Brentin Mock, April 2014  

Placemaking When Black Lives Matter, Annette Koh, April 2017

Park People needs your help to make parks and communities safe

For ten years, Park People has stood for the vital role parks play in fostering human connections. Today, we are asking for something that is dramatically out of step with that message but still serves our higher mission of supporting quality of life in our cities.

If we are to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and prevent the loss of loved ones and community members, we need to ask you to ACT NOW to stop the spread of COVID-19 by:

  1. Staying home as much as possible
  2. Practicing social distancing – staying more than 2 metres apart from other people in parks and public spaces
  3. Avoiding crowded places
  4. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are ill, remaining isolated

As our community, we are asking for your help by strictly following these guidelines and sharing this message in your own communities. 

We want our city parks to remain open to provide respite in these difficult times, but only if they are being used responsibly. If through our behaviours, our city parks contribute to the spread of infection, we have no choice but to support them being closed to the public.

Please join Park People in sharing the country’s chief public health officer’s warnings about safe and unsafe behaviour at this critical and unprecedented time. 


Are Canada’s parks really accessible?

When designing parks for the 1 in 7 Canadians who have a disability, the first thing that comes to mind is wheelchair-accessibility, but Brad McCannell, Vice President of Access and Inclusion at the Rick Hansen Foundation, wants city planners to get beyond this mindset.

While cities are making more wheelchair-accessible park facilities and trails, according to McCannel, more work needs to be done to create universal access for people with all forms of disability, such as hearing impairments, vision loss, and developmental disabilities. He makes a point of noting that 70% of people with disabilities do not use a wheelchair.

“There are seniors who can’t run as far or reach as far, but are not viewed as ‘disabled.’ We need more than wheelchair-accessible paths, we need to take a holistic look at what it means to have a disability and still enjoy parks and recreation.”

The Government of Canada states that because of its complexity, there is no single “operational” definition of disability. The most widely accepted definition is provided by the World Health Organization:

Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

Like the rest of us, people with a broad range of disabilities choose to live in cities for easy access to services and amenities such as parks, which are critical to their health and well-being. But, are Canadian cities doing enough to make parks accessible? 

According to Mike Prescott, PhD Candidate and Researcher on active mobility for people with disabilities, the state of accessibility in Canadian parks is a “mixed bag.”

“What is accessible differs from one person to the next. Someone using a scooter is going to have different accessibility requirements than someone with a visual impairment.”

Both Prescott and McCannel agree that cities can do more to make parks truly accessible for all. 

Better accessibility information and wayfinding


Mike Prescott with his dog, Gabby.

“There are many parks that offer accessible and interesting experiences, but we just don’t know about them. This dovetails with a critical element that is missing – accessibility information or wayfinding to help people navigate parks and trails such as maps, signage, and design elements,” said Mr. Prescott.

Accessibility information has improved through a proliferation of digital accessibility maps and mobile apps that help people with disabilities navigate cities and parks (AXS Map, Be My Eyes, AccessNow, and Wheelmap.), but many are crowdsourced by their potential users and if the data is not reliable, these apps risk making wayfinding harder, rather than easier.

Cities can address this by creating their own accessibility maps of parks and recreational facilities. The City of Burnaby recently completed an accessibility audit of its facilities, which resulted in the creation of an Accessibility Guidebook (available online and in PDF form). It includes detailed information for all civic buildings and parks on wheelchair accessible routes, bathrooms, parking and bus stops, as well as audible traffic signals. 

While providing accessibility information helps people with disabilities plan their trips to city parks and trails, they also benefit from wayfinding assistance once there.

“It is nice to have parks with trails, but older adults, or those with sensory impairments, can get disoriented and then they stop going. Reliable wayfinding can go a long way in helping people feel like they are not lost, “ said Mr. McCannel.

Some of the best and most reliable wayfinding examples are actually simple low-tech, low-cost solutions that go beyond basic signage, such as: including posts ever 15 – 100m on walking trails that show one side red and one side blue; high contrast imagery and markers for those who have lost depth perception; connecting posts with a tapping rail so that a cane can hit it; and adopting sensory solutions – a lavender garden, sounds, colours – that make wayfinding more intuitive.

For example, the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Design Guidelines specifies that where planting beds are provided in parks, designers should consider using raised beds and fragrant planting materials. 


Universal design is subtle


According to Lisa Derencinovic, a Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador who was diagnosed with genetic eye disease at age four, “accessibility is a practice and attitude of inclusion, and most importantly, is about creating opportunities to focus on the capabilities, rather than limitations of people with disabilities.” 

When I asked Mr. McCannel to show me examples of accessible parks, he responded that it can’t easily be photographed, because it should not be obvious.

“We don’t want special entrances. We just want to get there like everyone else. Why is there always a wheelchair symbol on the door? People do not want things labelled ‘disabled,’” said Mr. McCannel. “Really good universal design is not obvious. It should be as normal as possible.”

According to McCannel, the best thing urban parks can do is get a rating or audit from an accessibility organization, such as the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Accessibility Certification Program. The program, featured in Park People’s Canadian City Parks Report, offers trained professionals to evaluate the meaningful access of public spaces and commercial and residential buildings. So far, it has provided over 1100 ratings for parks, waterparks, playgrounds, and trails.

It also measures the level of meaningful access beyond building code and is based upon the holistic user experience of people with varying disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, and hearing, including people with developmental disabilities and autism.

Universal accessibility was something that Glenys SnowDymond, Spinal Cord Injury BC Accessibility Specialist, set out to achieve when working on upgrades to Naikoon Provincial Park, located in the pristine remote islands of Haida Gwaii:

“While planning we agreed that access is more than providing accessible picnic sites, benches, outhouses, and parking. To meet Universal Access standards would require accommodating a diverse range of accessible features, for vision, hearing, mobility-impaired individuals, persons with literacy considerations and the multicultural community.”

Naikoon Park interactive map

The resulting design includes extended wooden boardwalks, high-contrast interpretive panels that can be read in braille, a talking welcome sign that speaks aloud, and, those who can’t make the trip out can now explore the area virtually, via a fully-accessible interactive online website that features sound effects, animation and information posts.


Changing the culture of planning and design


“Often, public spaces are considered ‘accessible’ if they have one ramp, and ‘fully accessible’ if they have two,” said McConnel. “Parks are outside building codes, so planners tend to fall back on building codes when trying to make them accessible. For example, certain wheelchair ramps that meet code requirements and are safe indoors can be treacherous in the outdoors when wet.”

Many cities are expanding their view of accessibility in public spaces and parks by creating new design guidelines that go beyond minimum building code requirements. For example, the City of Calgary created a Universal Design Handbook that encourages design professionals – from architects, developers, planners to the interior and web designers – to provide equal access, social inclusion and a level playing field for all citizens. Other Canadian cities, like the City of Burnaby, are doing accessibility audits. According to Prescott:

“The Cities of Burnaby and Vancouver have made a concerted effort to incorporate accessibility into their parks over the last few years. Burnaby completed an accessibility audit of all their parks and recreation facilities and are taking a strategic approach to improving access for all. The key for cities is to not focus on individual parks, but how the network of parks can meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

Prescott said that parks departments tend to do a better job than most other departments in city government at creating accessibility, but one aspect of engagement that is missing is hiring planners and landscape architects with disabilities. This would help park planners and designers truly understand and see the challenges and barriers to accessibility in city parks. 

Jacques Courteau, co-chair of the City of Vancouver Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, in a new water wheelchair offered by the Vancouver Parks Board. Photo Vancouver Park Board.

In the absence of this, cities should at least have an advisory committee to provide ongoing advocacy for persons with disabilities. In 2018, the City of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee advocated for improved access to the city’s spectacular beaches. As a result, Mobi-Mats, a non-slip beach access path, and 10 new water wheelchairs are now available at various beaches and pools across the city (pictured above).

The smallest thing can prevent access for people with disabilities and you just need to see it. Once you start seeing it, you can’t stop,” said McCannel. “That is the beauty of it. We can change the culture, once we start to see.”



Jillian Glover is a communications professional who specializes in urban issues and transportation. She is a former Vancouver City Planning Commissioner and holds a Master of Urban Studies degree from Simon Fraser University. She was born and raised in Vancouver and writes about urban issues at her blog, This City Life.

Zero Waste Picnic: An inspired TD Park People Grant event


Would a party feel just as celebratory without the colourful paper plates and napkins? Would a picnic feel just as summery without bags of chips and bottles of juice?


The sight of wrappers rolling across the park, like tumbleweed early one morning during the farmers market’s set-up inspired Chantal Stepa, Toronto’s Withrow Park Market Manager, to find a way to celebrate without waste.



Stepa shared her idea for a Zero Waste Picnic as part of her TD Park People Grant proposal and Withrow Farmers’ Market received funding for this, and two other events.   

The Zero Waste Picnic took place during the regular Saturday market so that market-goers would have an opportunity to see zero waste in action, and people from the surrounding neighbourhood would experience the market while doing practical things like dropping off their electronic waste, getting their jewelry repaired and buying package-free body and home care products.


Stepa’s been adding a diverse roster of non-food focused programming to the market’s line up over the last two years and believes that diverse programming helps to introduce people to the farmers’ market and the local food movement. Events also allow the market to serve the community by helping them access services and events that they enjoy and need.

A dedicated team of volunteers played a critical role in the Zero Waste Picnic’s success. Stepa is the first to admit that distributing dishes, washing them according to public health standards and ensuring vendors felt confident using reusable dish ware, is a lot of work, and it takes a strong group of volunteers to pull it off.


“The people who came to the market really appreciated the experience of eating off real plates and using real reusable cutlery in an effort to reduce waste in our park. The positive feedback made the effort worth it.”


Stepa’s advice for hosting a Zero Waste event is to recruit a strong team of volunteers, and be sure to leave lots of lead time to communicate with vendors to reassure them and answer their questions.

Stepa used funds from the TD Park People grant to experiment with new outreach techniques including online ads and dropping off postcards door to door.

“The TD Park People Grant really allowed us to do more promotion than we normally would. We were able to experiment with going door-to-door for the first time, which attracted whole new groups of people. Also, the grant gave us a boost to get creative and think about new events we’d never tried.”


“This is truly a community market,” says Stepa, who has an astounding 80 community volunteers help out each season. The community’s resilience was threatened last Summer  , when a mass shooting took place on Danforth Avenue in the Greektown neighbourhood of Toronto. As events unfolded on July 22nd, the tight-knit community was terrified, envisioning which of their neighbours were among the injured.

In the week immediately following the shooting, Stepa and the Market’s board considered cancelling the farmers’ market since a large public gathering might make people feel unsafe. However, the market proceeded and served to return a “sense of normalcy” and a place for the community to reconnect. Many people pitched in to give something back to the community through the farmers’ market. For example, a local flower farmer decided to give all of her flowers away for free or for a donation, to brighten people’s day in a dark time.

The farmer’s market is what Stepa calls “a community space where people connect.” The connections were visible at the Zero Waste Picnic as people swayed along to great music in a park animated with vendors who have a shared vision for nourishing the community and supporting the future of the planet.

The Zero Waste Picnic set against the backdrop of a lush park made it clear that we can do great things, when we do them together.


Learn more about the TD Park People Grant program and our latest round of grantees hosting 225 park events across Canada. 


Canadian City Parks Report Released Today

The Canadian City Parks Report, released today, finds tight parks budgets, increasingly extreme weather events, and changing use of parks by residents are challenging cities across the country. But it also finds many cities are leading the way on solutions through an increasing focus on collaborative partnerships, proactive parks planning, and inclusive engagement practices.


Launched as an interactive website, the Canadian City Parks Report 2019 was developed by surveying 23 cities across the country in five thematic areas: nature, growth, collaboration, activation, and inclusion.


The report is the first of its kind and fills a gap in information sharing about Canadian city parks. It is a new resource to inform and inspire city staff, community members, professionals, politicians, and non-profits by highlighting leading-edge Canadian practices and tracking the pulse of city parks.


The report includes:


Key Findings in Cities We Surveyed



In its first year, Canadian City Parks Report 2019 establishes baselines to track trends in future years. Indicators include park budget dollars spent per resident, number of volunteers, hectares of parkland per 1,000 people, and more. Our goal is to include more cities in the report each year.


Tracking these metrics annually will help monitor the shared challenges uncovered in this first report and illuminate how cities across the country are tackling them with new practices that impact nature, growth, collaboration, activation, and inclusion in our city parks.


“With the support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Park People is excited to release the first edition of our Canadian City Parks Report, which we know will become a valuable resource for tracking progress and sharing best practices amongst city staff and community leaders. This first year shows that Canadian cities are facing many of the same challenges in city parks, highlighting how important it is to create a culture of shared learning so that we can continue to create the best park systems we can to benefit our communities.” – Dave Harvey, Executive Director, Park People


“With more than 80% of Canadians living in urban areas, city parks play an increasingly important role in the lives of so many of us. We hope the Canadian City Parks Report will help to monitor and guide the future planning of these valuable community green spaces for the well-being of all Canadians.” – Tamara Rebanks, Chair, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation


Contact: Jake Tobin Garrett, Policy and Planning Manager,


TD Park People Grants provide 225 ways for you to connect to your city parks

On Earth Day, we announced the 75 park groups and 225 park events that have received TD Park People Grant program funding to host awesome community events in parks. Now in its second year, the TD Park People Grant program has been expanded to include community park groups in 7 cities across the country. There are so many ways to get out into city parks between now and New Year’s Eve. Be sure to check out all of the grant recipients and mark your calendar for stellar community events you can attend in your city parks.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s planned in cities across Canada:


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Last year’s East vs West water fight in Calgary’s Crescent Heights brought a divided neighbourhood together in the park, all the while giving adults and kids alike a chance to have fun and cool down in the summer heat! This year, Crescent Heights Community Association is putting an eco-spin on their events by hosting an environmental puppet-making workshop into the park, a tree walk with a local arborist and, of course, the awesome water fight which we’re proud to say has become an annual tradition!


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We were thrilled to expand the TD Park People Grant program to Edmonton. The Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition is hosting events that focus on building young people’s connection to nature. Their Youth Engagement event at Riverdale Park will highlight their community garden, while Family Adventures in Whitemud Park will focus on the Kihciy Askiy (Sacred Earth), traditional Indigenous and ecological knowledge.


Our friends to the east, in Halifax, were ecstatic to be included in this year’s TD Park People Grant program.  Bloomfield Neighbourhood Residents Association demonstrated great creativity by proposing three different themed potlucks, the final one being a Welcome Home Community Potluck where, together with Immigrant Services Association of NS, they will invite newcomers in the community to share food and experiences. There will be no shortage of excitement with Dramatic Changes Artists Society’s Anti-Oppression improv show and their sunset dance party. Their events will be powered by solar panels and intentionally setting their events in a stewardship framework.


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The creativity of Montreal’s community park groups makes their events unique and well worth checking out! Toddlers and families of Dorval-Lachine will be reading, playing and picnicking in Park Lasalle, brought together by Table de concertation de petite enfance de Dorval Lachine, while the Groupe de citoyens 1e et 2eme ave will be cleaning up at Parc Frederic-Back, an iconic Montreal park in the midst of a huge transformation.


In Ottawa, both francophone and Anglophone communities are hosting events supported by TD Park People Grants.  Rendez Vous des Aines Francophones d’Ottawa will get local seniors to pitch in for a nature cleanup. A booming beach opening party is happening at the Westboro Beach Community.


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This year, the TD Park People Grant program was expanded from Toronto to across the entire Greater Toronto Area. Park Friends groups including Silver Creek, Lotherton, Dallington, Henrietta, Hancock Woodlands and Cedarbrook and Thompson Memorial parks are hosting awesome events in their parks.


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This summer in Vancouver, Gordon Neighbourhood House is taking their model for community action to the park! Broughton Street Mini-Park will be the backdrop for a great community barbeque, a community-wide chilli night featuring games, live music and food and a free gardening workshop for local neighbours to build their connection to urban agriculture.

We can’t wait to see you at these TD Park People Grant supported events. Be sure to check the website regularly for the latest event postings.


TD Park People Grants are generously supported by: 



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The TD Park People Grant program is generously supported by TD Bank Group, through its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment. Through this platform, TD is helping to open doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow so that people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. As part of this, TD is committed to helping elevate the quality of the environment so that people and economies can thrive, by growing and enhancing green spaces and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

To learn more about the ready Commitment visit


Jerome Dupras: Protecting nature through art and science

Jerome Dupras is one of the keynote speakers at Park People’s upcoming Heart of the City Conference taking place in Montreal, June 12-14, 2019. Jerome Dupras is the bassist in the well-loved Quebecois band, Les Cowboys Fringants, and Head of the Laboratoire d’Economie Ecologique at the Institut des Sciences de la Foret Temperee.

Dupras is unique in that his dedicated commitment to preserving and protecting nature lives at the intersection of  art, science, and activism.

Art and science share the stage


Jerome Dupras is not only a talented scientist and Geographer, but he’s also a bassist in a super-famous Quebec rock band.

Here’s how he makes sense of his dual-careers as a musician and scientist: 

Like music, science is a form of art. In science, like in music, you need to learn the basics and to practice a lot. To be innovative in art and in science, you need to be creative to make an impact. Breaking the boundaries between art and science is where the innovation ‘sweet spot’ lies for me.”.

In his career with Les Cowboys Fringants, Dupras uses the powerful platform afforded him to promote his message about the important and often overlooked value of preserving and enhancing nature. As a scientist, he’s used his artistic mind to develop creative research approaches that build people’s appreciation for and understanding of the ‘pay off’ that comes from investing in nature.

Making the economic argument for nature

Dupras and his team have developed a proprietary formula for measuring the economic value of natural infrastructure such as trees, rivers and flowers.

By finding ways to measure this value, Dupras has given nature a leg up in discussions that pit nature against  industry. More trees means less development, right? Sound familiar? Well, Dupras’ formula proves otherwise. As a result of his team’s open-source formula for quantifying nature’s economic value, municipalities have implemented tax credits for forest conservation and have justified planting more trees because of the pollination and natural water filtration services they provide.

Dupras and his team are committed to supporting grassroots, community-based groups by providing them with technical help to implement the formula.

 “I am really proud to see that our research is being applied,  allowing more people to preserve and cultivate natural infrastructure. It’s a model we want to see spread. The more people that use it, the better.”


Using music to cultivate the next generation of activists

In 2016, Dupras’ band Les Cowboys Fringants created a Foundation to support activities to help spread their message about the importance of nature. With support from fans, La Fondation Cowboys Fringants planted 375 000 trees to celebrate the 375 anniversary of Montreal. The crowdfunding effort was tied to album sales and funded the entire effort including a stewardship strategy.

“A tree planted now will be mature in 20 to 25 years,” said Dupras.“This is a gift to the children, both today and for the future”.

The Foundation also supported a program to teach songwriting to high-schoolers to help them use art as a platform for activism. Over 18 months, students from high schools across Québec wrote songs to promote environmental activism, all culminating in the release of 2 albums featuring students songs performed by well known Quebec artists:

It is an empowering process for budding student  who sees they started with a blank page and now their song and message is being performed  by a famous artist”.


Don’t miss your chance to hear from Jerome Dupras at the Heart of the City Conference in Montreal, June 12-14. He’s one of many dynamic speakers and presenters committed to the leveraging the power of parks across Canada. See you there! 


Public Life Study of the King Street Pilot: The Results are In

In July 2018 and November 2018, Park People worked with the City of Toronto and over 100 volunteers to conduct a public life study of the King Street Pilot. The study used a behavioural observation approach to examine the use of the new public spaces that were created along the street as part of the pilot between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. The purpose was to better understand how the new public spaces were working, including who was using them and for what activities, in order to evaluate their impact and determine recommendations for potential improvements.
The final report provides the findings, including the data for each study segment, and the overall key findings of the study.

Download the report

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