THE CANADA 150 FREE PARKS PASS BONANZA IS OVER. NOW WHAT?
To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, the Canadian government announced that admission to national parks across the country would be free for the year. CPAWS was supportive of this – we encourage Canadians to get out and connect with nature in these beautiful protected areas. And get out Canadians did, with over 27 Million visits to national parks in 2017 – about a 10% increase in visitation to national parks across the board. In some parks, such as Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, visitation reportedly jumped a whopping 75%!
But now that the Free Parks Pass Bonanza is over, what’s next? Personally, I’d like to encourage Canadians to keep exploring our amazing parks and protected areas! It’s easier than you think. Below are three challenges I’m going to throw down to CPAWS’ members and supporters for 2018. Are you up for the challenge? I promise, you won’t be sorry.
Challenge #1: Visit 3 New Parks this Year
Visit your local provincial or territorial parks website, or the Parks Canada website. Is there a park near you that you’ve never been to? Why not try to visit three new parks this year – that’s a new park once every 4 months… pretty easy, right? It should give you lots of time to plan.
Other options you may want to consider are National Wildlife Areas or provincial conservation or recreation areas.
I know two parks I’ll be visiting myself this year: 1) Fitzroy Provincial Park apparently has some great canoeing, you can rent canoes at the park, and it is less than an hour’s drive from Ottawa! And 2) Thousand Islands National Park is somewhere I’ve never been, despite living near it for years… and you can rent canoes there, too!
Share your new experiences with us at @cpaws – we’d love to follow your journey!
Challenge #2: Find your Urban Oasis
Perhaps, like me, you don’t own a car, or you live in an urban centre. Don’t let this be a barrier to getting outside – many of Canada’s cities take pride in their parks and many of them are accessible by public transit, or may even be right around the corner from you. Make a plan – find your nearest park on google maps, pack a blanket and a snack, and spend a Saturday afternoon enjoying a green oasis in the city.
Challenge #3: Inspire a Friend
Do you know someone who could use a breath of fresh air? Why not take that person with you to a new park this year, or invite them for that picnic in your urban oasis. Not only will you feel great about getting outside, but your friend will reap the benefits, too – and you’ll have a shared experience to look back on or to inspire you to do more together.
I’ve already challenged someone – my 10-year-old nephew. I gave him his first sleeping bag for Christmas and told him we’ll use it on his first canoe trip in Ontario this summer. Now, where should we go? I’m open to your suggestions – tweet me at @AlisonRonson!
So, Why These Three Challenges in Particular?
If you need some convincing to accept the challenges before you, consider the following:
- Getting outside to natural areas has invaluable health impacts – experiencing and being in nature has been connected with reductions in stress and anxiety, boosting the immune system, and improving feelings of wellbeing. These physical and mental health benefits are even more important for children.
- Parks and protected areas are key for our survival – they are reservoirs of biodiversity and provide us with vital ecosystem services. Getting out to them will help you (and your friends!) appreciate the role they play when you spy wildlife, consider the clean air you are breathing, or enjoy the fresh water you are drinking.
- Visiting your local parks will encourage governments to maintain and manage them for the conservation of nature and to establish more of these important, special places. This is a vote with your feet for these amazing spaces.
I look forward to meeting you in nature, wherever our park trails cross!
Yours in Conservation,
National Director, Parks Program