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Happy 100 Years Parks Canada!

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Under expansion plans, Parks Canada employees will supervise approximately 250 projects. (Photo: Stock.xchng)
Under expansion plans, Parks Canada employees will supervise approximately 250 projects. (Photo: Stock.xchng)

WORLD

  • Canada’s national parks have grown from one park in Banff, Alberta, in 1886, to 36 national parks and 6 park reserves
  • Parks Canada is in the midst of a 5-year, $90-million plan to reintroduce native species and plants to certain sites, and treat polluted water
  • Parks Canada has launched Explora GPS, mobile apps and other solutions to teach visitors about park sites and outdoor survival skills

Having celebrated its 100th birthday a month ago on May 19, 2011, Parks Canada will continue its mandate of presenting and protecting “nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural landscapes” for the benefit of current and future generations.

With a total area of 9.9 million square kilometers, Canada is known for its beautiful scenery. Parks Canada, the first official national parks system in the world, oversees the gravesites of ex prime ministers, 167 historical sites, 42 national parks and 4 marine conservation areas.

In 1886, Banff, Alberta became the site of Canada’s first national park. In 1911, the federal government created the Dominion Parks branch, now known as Parks Canada Agency, to oversee Canada’s then 10 to 12 national parks. Parks Canada, the first system of its kind in the world, has grown significantly since then. A staff of over 4,500 now oversees 36 national parks and six national park reserves. These parks vary in size (e.g., from 9 square kilometers to 45,000) and in number of visitors.

5-Year, $90-million Rejuvenation Plan

Rising concern about the environment, resulting in the 1998 Panel on Ecological Integrity of Canada’s National Parks, has led to Parks Canada’s shift from merely presenting natural areas to the public, to protecting these areas. Parks Canada is presently in the midst of a five-year, $90-million plan that involves reintroducing native plants or species to specific sites, and treating polluted water. For instance, in 2009, Parks Canada brought black-footed ferrets back to Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park. Parks Canada has also taken up the protection of unique waterways since the enforcement of the Marine Conservation Act in 2002.

While some of Parks Canada’s sites have millions of visitors, on the whole, attendance rates have declined in the last decade. Andrew Campbell, Parks Canada’s Director General of Visitor Experience, found that many would-be visitors stay away due to a lack of basic outdoor survival skills.

Explora GPS and Survival Skills

To help resolve this issue, Parks Canada has introduced their own GPS for visitors – the handheld Explora, which has been used in a pilot project at parks in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The Explora has enabled users to see their location on a map, and to gain information about their specific location through quizzes, text, images, sound and video. So far, the Explora is a hit, with an 85% approval rating.

Parks Canada is also launching apps for mobile devices, focusing on cooking as related to historical sites and camping basics. While Parks Canada will also provide these lessons face-to-face, they are hoping technology will help introduce more people to the beauty of Canada’s great outdoors.

Interesting Facts - Canada’s Natural Parks (source: Parks Canada)

  • Parks Canada is comprised of four marine conservation areas, 167 historical sites and 42 national parks.
  • For the past six years, the Canadian Government has been conserving 90,000 more square kilometers of natural locations. Eventually the National Parks system will expand by 30% to 365,000 square kilometers.
  • 2010 saw significant progress toward the creation of six new national parks and a national marine conservation area.
  • Under expansion plans, Parks Canada employees will supervise approximately 250 projects.
  • Over $215 million of Action Plan funds will be used for the overall improvement and renovation of Parks Canada’s sites.
  • Upwards of $1 million of Economic Action Plan funding is going toward a viewing platform, boat launch and docks, picnic site and board.

By Christelle Agboka for
Christelle Agboka is a freelance journalist based in Kingston, Ontario, who covers business and economy news.

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