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  • Town of Castor Benefits from Green Jobs Initiative

    The Town of Castor, Alberta offers many outdoor spaces – including the community’s walking trails, fish pond, and creek.

    This summer, these spaces were maintained and beautified for residents and visitors to enjoy.

    Thanks to funding from the CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program, the Town of Castor was able to hire university student Shaelyn Hewitt as a Green Initiatives Coordinator.

    “My job allows me to beautify green spaces and turn them into something people can enjoy,” says Shaelyn, adding that people feel encouraged to go outside and appreciate nature more when everything is well maintained. “Our town has many trails, parks and sitting areas outdoors we take care of for everyone to enjoy.”

    As Green Initiatives Coordinator, Shaelyn kept the town looking its best. Among many of her tasks, she watered plants, cut the grass, and trimmed trees.

    But Natasha Bozek, the Town of Castor’s Recreation Director, says that there was much more to Shaelyn’s job.

    “While many of our summer positions are focused on grass cutting, tree trimming and garbage collection, this job also focused on a recycling program, tree planting program planning, organic weed control, waste reduction strategies and green space beautification,” says Natasha.

    She adds that Shaelyn’s green job enabled the Town to move its green initiatives forward, and showed residents that its green spaces are valued.

    “It shows our residents that we are working on making our community a better place to live, work and play,” says Natasha.

    The funding also allowed the Town to dedicate resources to green initiatives, which Natasha says may otherwise not have been prioritized.

    If given the opportunity, Natasha says the Town would definitely apply for the funding again.

    “It is always of great help to a small town to have additional student support, and renewed funding would allow us to continue to work on green initiatives in the future,” she says.

    Shaelyn adds that this is the third year she has worked a summer job in the town’s public works department, and she feels like she is making a difference in the community. Through her work, she has gained a new perspective of what goes into public works and how it helps people enjoy the outdoors and appreciate nature.

    “It’s much more than just ‘keeping the town pretty’. There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy. I work alongside incredible staff which makes my job a lot of fun,” she says, noting that she would love the opportunity to work for the town again. “I love having a job that keeps me active and outside all summer. Having an opportunity to have so much control over what our town looks like is an honour. I love being able to create a nice space for our citizens to enjoy.”

    The CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative supports Goal 3 ‘Connecting People & Nature’ and Goal 5 ‘Recreation Capacity’ within the Framework for Recreation in Canada. The Framework serves as a foundation for the work of the parks and recreation sector.


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  • Parks, Trails and COVID 19

    Well the year 2020 will be a year we will remember for a very long time. It feels like we went to bed and woke up to a completely different world. This new world we woke up to significantly changed how we managed our daily life. It didn’t just change our lives in Canada but around the whole world. What became clearly evident very early in the pandemic was how people would react to what would be the new normal for months to come.

    Initially you would think that food, communication, and finances would be front and centre, however there was an unexplained infatuation to hoard, of all things, toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper or lack of, caused what we would consider normal balanced citizens to engage in unprecedented line ups, arguments, price gouging and even unethical reselling at inflated prices.

    Thankfully this wave of misguided panic slowly subsided and very quickly the real issues began to emerge. As the positive cases of Covid 19 increased including major sickness and deaths, reality had set in and now there were a whole new set of rules. One of those new normal rules to come into effect was initially called Social Distancing, later to be referred to as Physical Distancing which better articulated the intent of the rule. This one new rule, or mandated behaviour would change the way we communicated, recreated and moved within our communities. Not only did this new Physical Distancing mandate effect our personal lives, it spilled over into every business and service area in Canada including our Parks and Trails Sector.

    Our Parks and Trails professionals are no strangers to challenging situations whether they are in the form of ice storms, SARS, flooding, snowstorms, power outages and tornadoes to name a few. With all that in mind no previous event posed as many challenges to our Parks and Trails sector as the Covid 19 Pandemic.

    What made things initially challenging was the speed at which it was spreading, and how quickly strategies and decision making was occurring as it related to how we were to manage our Parks and Trails. What became increasingly clear from the outset was the interpretation of the direction from our senior public officials was being interpreted differently and inconsistently across the country. It started with playgrounds and the hope was to see physical distancing being practiced in each community. For many reasons this did not work as adults and children continued to use the playgrounds and park amenities in their usual manner. The same result was seen on trails where physical distancing was not working and parking lots, playgrounds, benches, beaches and various park amenities were being heavily used. This became especially apparent when the weather began to warm up and people needed to get out for some respite from being asked to stay inside.

    These actions necessitated more drastic measure be taken in the form of closing off playgrounds, parks amenities, beaches and in some cases Parks and Trails. Unfortunately, these closures were not done on a consistent basis and became a sore spot with communities who desperately needed to escape from their safe place and get out for some fresh air and healthy exercise. Standing in line for food shopping and following the in-store arrows was hard enough but not being able to get out for a walk in the park, or a sit down on a bench was a harder pill to swallow. Not to mention what to do with the children who were now not going to school and in much need of letting off steam.

    I must commend our leaders across the country who, on a daily basis, after much consultation and strategizing with public health officials, were trying to make the best decisions they could to flatten the curve and beat this virus. That task, however, was proving to be harder than expected. As a result a more aggressive approach was required, mostly because of the behaviour of many citizens of all ages who just didn’t get the physical distancing message.

    We were now faced with park closures, trail closures, playground closures, washroom closures, and even restrictions on how many people could come together at one time which eventually ended up being restricted to family members living in the same house. Failure to comply resulted in fines ranging from 750 dollars to 10 thousand dollars depending on the situation. Yes, because of human behaviour desperate times had called for desperate measures. These decisions did not sit well with many citizens who needed their daily dose of fresh air, and physical activity. Walking around the block was just not doing it for them, not to mention the children.

    The fact is these actions had a positive impact of flattening the curve and getting the community spread under control. As I write this article Dr. Tam is advising us to stay the course as we come down the good side of the curve so that we reduce the impact of a second wave.  Premier Ford has just announced that in the coming days there will be good news for garden centres, and yet at the same time we have the Cherry Blossom tour in High Park in Toronto closed off to the public.

    As I keep in regular contact with our Municipal Parks and Trails professionals, and as I monitor our Ontario Parks Association daily live information Forum, it is abundantly clear that we need to greatly enhance our ability to share policies and procedures with our sector, whether they are from a small rural community or a booming metropolis. Large or small the expectation of our park patrons is the same wherever you go.  So, as our Parks and Trails professionals tweak their signage, limit their seasonal call backs, reduce the number of student hires, scramble access online training, they will still be able to deliver enough services to protect the assets from excessive deterioration at this time. This includes our trees, flower beds, sport fields, community gardens, beaches and naturalized areas because to abandon them entirely would result in very costly rebuilding and in some cases complete loss of the asset due to erosion, invasive infestations or out of control growth.

    At this time a very careful balance must be achieved whereby our parks professionals must maintain and preserve the green infrastructure assets and amenities, albeit  to a minimum, while still allowing for our citizens to be able to find creative ways to get out and get their much needed nature and healthy activity fix. This is where we may see changes in what could become the new normal in parks, trails and outdoor recreation.

    The following bullet points represent areas of current discussion in the Parks and Trail sector which have been impacted by the Covid 19 experience.

    • As an alternative to full closure of parks and trail amenities there needs to be a more wholesome discussion about the obvious physical and mental health benefits of controlled and monitored outdoor activity in order to reduce stress, violence and less pressure on police and healthcare resources.
    • Adjustments to Park and Trail design to accommodate more efficient distancing goals such as wider trails, one-way paths or trails with an alternative one-way loop or return.
    • LED or manual Park gateway and Trailhead signs or information boards highlighting physical distancing and social grouping protocols.
    • Live Webcam in hot spots or areas of concern where allowed, in order to monitor non-compliance.
    • Greater use of Parks and Trail apps where distancing and park and trail etiquette is clearly articulated.
    • Pre-set park and or trail capacities to avoid over-crowding combined with on-site monitoring in high use areas.
    • Establish Parks and Trails Ambassadors to have a presence in high density areas. Could be a student or volunteer program depending on the community.
    • Handwash or sanitizing stations on sites of high touch surfaces such as playgrounds and exercise equipment.
    • Educational information on Parks and Trail safe use policies as part of the school curriculum.
    • In park or on trail prompts or makers to simplify or remind users to practice distancing.
    • Proactive education and media communication vs issuing tickets unless in extreme non-compliance.
    • Smaller or single seat benches.
    • More emphasis on online training models where the bulk of training can be done online and then backed up with practical demonstrated ability.
    • Crew sizes including transportation in vehicles may be restricted going forward to continue physical distancing compliance.

    These are some of the potential changes or enhancements we may expect in the delivery of our Parks, Trail and Outdoor Recreation services, and I expect there will be more to come.

    Something that will have a significant impact on future events like this pandemic is how we position our Parks, Trails and Outdoor Recreation amenities within our Strategic Plans. A solid argument can be made if we incorporate organizations like Eco Health Ontario, Green Infrastructure Ontario, and other like organizations across the country to provide the science-based data on the value of our living green infrastructure to the physical and mental health and well-being of our citizens. I firmly believe that there is more than enough data available to make the argument that our Parks and Trails are essential services, and in order to safely negotiate these challenges provided they are properly managed and monitored.

    In closing I would like to thank all the Parks, Trails and Outdoor Recreation professionals out there who keep our connection to physical and mental health a positive one. In addition I commend the political leadership at all levels for doing their best under adverse conditions, and I appeal to them to take an in depth look at the Biophilic connection we have with nature and how maintaining access to these spaces, when properly managed, are part of the solution and not part of the family.

    Congratulations to Canadian Nursery and Landscape Association who have joined forces with the National Communities in Bloom organization in providing leadership and the facilitation of the cultural and horticultural beautification of bringing Canadian Communities Alive.

    Be kind and stay safe.

    Paul Ronan
    Executive Director
    Ontario Parks Association

    Cell: 647-991-9444




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  • Wentworth Come Alive Outside

    Think of your favourite childhood memories…chances are they involved being outside. 

    Connecting with nature by working, playing and living outdoors is an essential part of our nature.  We somehow feel more alive, our senses more acute to the many compelling attractions of being outside.  When we recall those childhood memories, we’re doing things…really living…outside.

    Today’s plugged-in, sedentary lifestyles are quite the opposite of those days of our youth.  Outdoor games have been replaced with indoor, plugged-in recreation.  The art of gardening has largely been lost.  Our experience and connection with nature and the natural world around us has become minimal.  All of these factors have led to significant health issues directly related to the sedentary lifestyle so prevalent within all ages of our communities, especially the young.  The New England Journal of Medicine stated that if these health issues related to our sedentary lifestyles goes unchecked, this generation may live a shorter lifespan than their parents by as much as five years.

    Come Alive Outside is a Landscape Profession led movement to counter these health implications by creating the awareness, intention and opportunity to live a healthier life outside.   The five principles of Come Alive Outside are:

    Get Active Outside
    Connect with Nature
    Play unplugged
    Grow something you can eat
    Learn with your hands in the soil

    By focusing the design of our home gardens, parks and greenspaces around these principles, we provide the opportunities to re-capture those childhood memories, connect with nature and live healthier lives.

    Get Active Outside
    We intuitively know that we feel better when we’re outside.  Our senses are awakened to the natural world around us.  Whether it be walking or running within our community, hiking on nature trails, or working and playing in our gardens, we feel better for having done so.  Outdoor fitness equipment is now available within our parks, offering a wide range of stretching, strengthening and cardio activities. 

    Connect with Nature
    This current generation of children has a greater academic understanding of nature and the environment than any generation before it, but little personal experience of it.  It’s a universal truth that we protect those things that we have personal experience interaction with.  We need to get our children outside and connected with nature.  This can be as simple as observing the plants in our gardens, observing bugs and animals, watching the sky as different cloud formations come and go.  Observing and learning that everything in nature is interconnected, including ourselves, is a powerful lesson that frames how we view and care for the natural world.

    Play Unplugged
    On average, children spend upwards of seven hours a day connected to some kind of electronic device.  This has largely replaced outdoor play and physical activity, and the face-to-face social skills that are developed through outdoor play.  Only 1 in 8 Canadian children get the minimal recommendation of one – two hours of physical activity a day.  Children need to learn the lost art of unstructured play.  Teaching them the outdoor games of previous generations not only strengthens intergenerational relations, but it’s a whole lot of fun for everyone.

    Grow Something You Can Eat
    Edible gardening is one of the fastest growing trends amongst homeowners.  Learning the simple basics of gardening through growing something you can eat is tremendously rewarding, especially for children.  It teaches them about our food sources, connects them with growing cycles, and provides an activity that they take great pride in, especially when the fruits of their efforts ends up on the dinner table.

    Learn with Your Hands in the Soil
    All of these activities can result in children “learning with their hands in the soil”.  The connection with the earth and natural systems, especially gardening, provides a multitude of benefits.  Numerous therapeutic benefits have been noted in recent studies, largely focused on our feeling healthier, happier and smarter.

    Come Alive Outside Programs
    Come Alive Outside assists in organizing five core community Programs:

    Green Streets Challenge
    With the support of Landscape Ontario, we produced nine events in Canada and another five in the US in 2018.

    Come Alive Outside Design Challenge
    The Design Challenge creates the opportunity for college and university students, high school, elementary and pre-school students to work together with landscape professionals to design and build natural schoolyards and play spaces in communities across North America.

    Community Activity Passports
    This community based program gives families extra incentive to stay active and take advantage of access to nearby nature.  Children earn points and win prizes for visiting local parks, farmers markets and community events to complete tasks or find secret codes.

    Mile a Day
    Mile a Day is a walking challenge that encourages individuals and teams from different worksites to establish and track healthy walking habits.  This program is active in several communities in Vermont, with 66% of participants reporting overall increased activity levels.

    Park Rx
    Park Rx is a national movement for doctors and healthcare providers to initiate the conversation with patients about the health benefits of spending time in nature through prescriptions for time outdoors.

    Go to to learn more about how you and your community can get involved.

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  • A.M.A. Horticulture Inc. – Saving Water for the City of Edmonton

    Hanging baskets make cities beautiful, but they often require a lot of water. And that doesn’t come cheap. It costs taxpayers, and the environment. The City of Edmonton turned to A.M.A. for an innovative solution that’s helping them save on water, labour and fertilizer costs.

    Dorothy Jedrasik is the Crew Leader at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, where all of the city’s hanging baskets are made. When she first started in her role, she identified an opportunity to improve efficiencies and reduce costs.

    “We were using moss liners with a silver bowl pan wired to the underside to hold excess water. They were expensive and labour intensive to plant. And they had to be watered every day by our water trucks,” said Jedrasik. “I knew we could do better, so I called A.M.A.”

    Edmonton switched to the H2O Labour-Saver hanging basket. The 23″ basket has a removable liner, a reservoir drainage plug and a heavy-duty plastic hanger that’s built to last. Its 2.6 gallon reservoir means that municipalities, hospitals, universities or corporations can spend less time watering, reducing their water, labour and fertilizer costs. In Edmonton, the impact was significant.

    “We went from watering every single day to watering every 2-3 days in sunny, windy locations and every 4-5 days in shaded, protected locations,” said Jedrasik. “Another advantage of these baskets is that they’re lightweight and easy to transport around the city. When drivers come to the greenhouse to pick up the baskets, they drain the water from the reservoir so they’re easy to lift. Once at the final location, our water trucks come and refill the reservoirs back up.”

    Edmonton has been using the H2O Labour-Saver hanging baskets for five years, and other municipalities have taken note of their success.

    “We get calls from outside Edmonton asking about them. They have outperformed every other hanging basket we’ve tried.”

    A.M.A is proud to supply this sustainable solution to the City of Edmonton. To learn more about how the H2O Labour-Saver can help you save water, contact Anne-Marie Klaas.Discover how we can deliver innovative, custom solutions for your success today.

    Edmonton saving water hanging basket H2O labour saver basket sustainability

    Dorothy Jedrasik, Crew Leader at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, with the H2O Labour-Saver hanging baskets.

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