For 35 years, The Riverwood Conservancy (TRC) has stewarded Riverwood, a 150 acre urban oasis of woodlands, meadows and nature trails. More than 10,000 people a year take part in TRC’s nature-focused events, and their volunteers log more than 24,000 hours a year. TRC has twice received a Park People Greenbelt River Valley Connector grant to support programs that connect people to their local Greenbelt protected watersheds.
As an organization with a strong understanding and foothold in the community, TRC was in an ideal position to help a new Mississauga park group get their volunteer program started. Friends of Hancock Woodlands was established when the City of Mississauga purchased a family-owned plant nursery with plans to open it as a new garden park. From the start of the project, the City was committed to ensuring the park had a robust volunteer program including a strong community park group. Hancock Woodlands was finally opened as a public park in 2018. In 2019 they received their first TD Park People grant to support awesome events that connected the community to their newest park.
The Riverwood Conservancy is more than 20 times the size of Hancock Woodlands with a long, established role in their City. How did Friends of Hancock Woodlands become the “little sister” to The Riverwood Conservancy and how did TRC’s experience help shape volunteerism and community engagement at Hancock Woodlands? We spoke to Robin Haley-Gillin, Manager of Organizational Development & Volunteers at TRC and Sytske van der Veen, Chair of the Friends of Hancock Woodlands, to learn more about their impressive collaboration.
As a national city parks organization, we recognize that when we speak of municipal parks and public land, we are obscuring the fact that, in most cases, the land that we are speaking of is traditional Indigenous territory. Our work building community and engaging neighbourhoods are woefully incomplete without recognizing the injustice that dispossessed the First Nations of the land we now refer to as “public land.”
How can we begin to actively address generations of systemic oppression imposed by colonization and settlement? The Vancouver Park Board hired their first-ever reconciliation planner and is in the process of conducting a colonial audit of their board. The City of Quesnel, BC recently restored ownership of Tingley Park to the Lhtako Dene First Nation. There are many inspiring park projects across the country focused on rebuilding trust, sharing knowledge and developing true partnerships between First Nations and settlers. Many are covered in our Canadian City Parks Report.
Since writing and sharing Park People’s land acknowledgement at our recent Heart of the City conference, we have been asked about how we developed the acknowledgement. As part of our own journey, we want to share some insights we generated in developing our land acknowledgement.
At its core, safety means inhabiting a predictable, orderly world that is somewhat within our control. After our basic physiological needs are met, the need for safety and security is a basic need for everyone.
How do you create safe environments in parks?
Because parks are used by different people whose sense of safety may bump up against one another, the topic of safety is very complicated. What makes one group feel safe, may make another feel unsafe and unwelcome.
We spoke to two community park groups who have faced safety challenges and are working hard to make their parks welcoming, inclusive, and safe places. Here’s what we learned.
It’s no surprise that park groups organize themselves differently from not-for-profit organizations with paid staff. For many volunteers, park work is a ‘side-hustle’ on top of work or family responsibilities. Individual responsibilities can range from light to overwhelming, and the governance model that an organization has a lot to do with moderating workload.
Grassroots Growth, a project from Volunteer Toronto, highlights three models of governance common for smaller organizations like most community park groups. The three most common models to consider for your community park group are Strong Leader, Leadership Team and Committee. This article will illustrate the application of the Committee model, as applied by (FoRRP).
According to Grassroots Growth, with the Committee model “members of the governance structure are organized into various committees or working groups. Each committee is responsible for specialized tasks with respect to the group’s activities. All the committees do work that ties back to the organization’s mission and vision.” The Committee model is useful when your group is too large for a Leadership Team model or you are looking for ways to share leadership better and move things along more quickly.
We spoke with Zac Childs, Convenor of FoRRP in Toronto, Ontario, whose organization takes care of three parks in west Toronto: Fred Hamilton Playground, George Ben Park, and the Roxton Road Parkette.
The organization came into being in 2011 when a group of eight Ward 19 neighbours responded to a City of Toronto need for local guidance on upgrades to Fred Hamilton Playground. These eight people formed FoRRP, which started out with a Leadership Team governance model: each member had a distinct duty, but all worked together on a common goal. The Leadership Team model spreads the load amongst a number of members.
It’s no surprise that park groups organize themselves differently from not-for-profit organizations with paid staff. For many volunteers, park work is a “side-hustle” that happens while managing busy work and family responsibilities.
Grassroots Growth, a project from Volunteer Toronto, talks about the various governance models common for smaller organizations like most community park groups. We’re going to cover the team model and address how it’s been applied by two different park groups, differently.
To do this, we spoke with Louise O’Neill, Convenor of Friends of Cedarbrook and Thomson Memorial Park (FCTMP) in Scarborough, Ontario, whose organization recently transitioned from a strong leader model to a leadership team model. We also spoke to Ana Cuciureanu from Toronto’s Friends of Parkway Forest Park (FPFP), an organization that has adopted a hybrid version of the team model that they’re found effective.
By way of definition, a team model means that “all core volunteers work together to make decisions.” Adopting a team model makes sense when your group is small; you are looking for ways to include others in decision making, and working to avoid the burnout that can come with one individual carrying the load as a leader. Your ideas and solutions might turn out to be more creative, and sharing the load can feel good for everyone on the team.