Everyone Belongs Outside

Alberta Parks is removing barriers so more people can connect with nature.

Navigating rough terrain is made easier for limited mobility trail users with the new Park Explorer prototype
Navigating rough terrain is made easier for limited mobility trail users with the new Park Explorer prototype

Alberta Parks’ plan for inclusion is called Everyone Belongs Outside. It looks at ways to help people with physical or mental disabilities, as well as seniors, youth and new Canadians, connect with nature through camping, hiking or other experiences.

“This plan offers an exciting vision for Alberta’s provincial parks where people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are free to enjoy the outdoors.” – Dr. Richard Starke, Minister, Tourism, Parks and Recreation

The plan, which will help guide the future development of parks, calls for programs, policies and partnerships to help people discover, enjoy and protect the natural world.

Initiatives across the province include:

  • programs that teach new Canadians how to camp and be safe in nature;
  • a bus pilot project to transport people between Fort McMurray and Gregoire Lake Provincial Park; and
  • geocaching and astronomy programs for youth.

As part of the plan’s implementation, a volunteer ambassador program has been launched in Kananaskis Country. Volunteer ambassadors, some of whom are disabled, will identify areas that are already accessible or require modifications. They will also promote inclusive outdoor recreation at special events.

Alberta Parks also unveiled a new, one-of-a-kind vehicle that allows people with limited mobility to manoeuvre on rougher terrain in ways they have never been able to before. The vehicle, called the Park Explorer, was developed by Alberta Parks staff in collaboration with stakeholders and volunteers. Alberta Parks is now exploring partnerships to make more of the prototype available.

“Being able to participate in nature with my 14-year-old daughter means a lot to me. I am very grateful for opportunities to spend time with her in a fun and relaxed environment.” – Shawna Henderson, Push to Open Nature Ambassador and a user of the Trail Explorer

Everyone Belongs Outside builds on social research that shows the health benefits of being in nature and existing efforts by Alberta to increase inclusion and accessibility in parks. This includes the creation of William Watson Lodge and an adapted trail system in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and free camping programs for new Canadians.