Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parks Canada Celebrates 100th birthday!

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, B.C.
Today marks the 100th birthday of the establishment of Parks Canada, the world’s first national park service. Our country is known for many things, but perhaps it’s our natural treasures – the lakes, forests, and mountains national parks were created to protect – that people the world over admire.

Parks Canada has planned a series of events throughout this Centennial year to celebrate our parks and historic sites, and to encourage people to fall in love with nature by visiting these special places. Some of us here at Nature Canada took part in one event just last week, to kick off the My Parks Pass program – a joint initiative between Nature Canada, Parks Canada and the Historica-Dominion Institute to distribute free family passes to Grade 8/Secondary 2 students across the country. This project is an important part of our work to help connect people to nature at an early age. (How many of us, as adults, can trace our love for nature to a childhood experience – or many – that instilled in us a lifelong affection for the natural world?)

This Centennial comes at a time when “a great tide of Canadians are embracing camping in growing numbers, many for the first time,” according to the Toronto Star:

According to an Angus Reid survey commissioned by Canadian Tire and Coleman Canada, at least 46 per cent of Canadians now take camping trips as part of their summer vacations. And even though it’s still early in the season, “camping reservations at Parks Canada [campgrounds] are up 14 per cent over the same period last year and 24 per cent compared to the five-year average,” says the federal agency’s Natalie Fay.
This is good news. Yes, it's true, the perennial challenge is balancing efforts to increase visitorship with the national parks system’s primary goal, the protection of biodiversity. Parks exist for people to enjoy the outdoors, and they exist to preserve wildlife. Nevertheless, encouraging visitors to experience our national parks is a great way to reconnect people with nature; in doing so, Canadians will be more apt to support nature conservation generally.
Other than My Parks Pass, some of Parks Canada’s upcoming events are:

• A centennial celebration in Toronto on May 21, featuring a Parks Canada-themed Blue Jays game, evening camp-out in Rogers Centre, street fair and free outdoor concert.

• On Canada Day (July 1) and Parks Day (July 16), Parks Canada will offer visitors the chance to enter its places across the country for free.

• Also on Parks Day, a free concert series will gather Canadian artists in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

• Operation Unplugged, a joint broadcast and web venture that will provide opportunities for eight urban youth to trade their "techno-dependent" lifestyles for a summer "unplugged" in Canada’s national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas where they will compete in challenges under the guidance of a host and Parks Canada staff

• New HD documentaries, including The National Parks Project on Discovery Canada, season two of A Park for All Seasons on Oasis HD and the pilot of a new series on national historic sites on Treasure HD, offering Canadians behind the scenes visits like never before.

• Unveiling of a coin with the Royal Canadian Mint and the launch of a commemorative postage stamp with Canada Post.

• Special “learn to camp” programs across the country and brand new accommodations offerings in national parks.

Over the years, we've been close partners with the people at the Parks Canada Agency, engaging in the complex process of establishing new national parks, or fostering public understanding and appreciation of Canada's natural heritage. Here's to 100 years of celebrating and protecting nature -- and to another century of nature conservation.