This year’s report contains 32 Canadian cities—an increase of five over 2020—including 25 returning cities, and seven new cities. We aimed for diversity in size, geography, and official language, and prioritized cities that were returning from 2020, contacted us to participate, or filled a gap.
We distributed questionnaires to park staff, available in both French and English, that included questions on statistics, policies/plans, and projects/practices. The questionnaire included a confidential section about challenges, allowing us to report on cross-country trends.
To ensure data quality, we verified some responses independently or followed up with questions. All cities had a chance to verify their City Profile data pre-publication.
We also undertook secondary research of media and scholarly sources. To ensure rich analysis and capture diverse perspectives, we conducted expert interviews with city staff, academic researchers, park professionals, non-profit staff, and community members.
Finally, we created and launched a public survey in April 2021 on COVID-19 and Parks, that builds on the findings of our June 2020 survey. This survey was open to the general Canadian public and was promoted through our newsletter, social media, and partner networks. We received nearly 3,500 responses, including representation from all provinces and territories.
Challenges and Limitations
Part of what makes Canada’s landscape of city parks so exciting is its variety. Climate, topography, and governance are just a few factors that make cities unique—but that comes with challenges for comparability. Differences in which cities participated in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 reports also made cross-year comparability of data challenging, so we focused on overall trends.
Variations within city data
Cities are also in very different places regarding what metrics they track, how they track them, and how they coordinate data internally. For some cities, certain numbers were not available, or were only available as best estimates (e.g. number of volunteers). Data were collected largely in February 2021.
We’ve tried our best to ensure consistency and context. For example, we’ve used methods that standardize for city size (e.g., hectares of parkland per 1,000 people). In cases where there are important influencing factors that affect the data, we’ve noted these directly on the City Profile for transparency.
Ensuring common definitions has been another challenge. We refined some of our definitions this year based on city feedback, and will continue improving them.
Public survey demographics
For the COVID-19 and Parks public survey, the distribution of respondents across sociodemographic variables is worth noting: 66% identified as women and 49% were between the ages of 30-54. This means that these demographics are slightly overrepresented when compared to the general Canadian population.
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Includes both natural and maintained parkland that is owned, leased, or under a management agreement by the municipality. Parkland refers to areas used for active or passive recreation, and does not include golf courses or water bodies.
A natural area is a green space which receives a relatively low level of maintenance and supports natural or naturalizing vegetation. Natural areas may include trails or walkways as well as parking areas and washrooms.
Areas designated under special policy protection to preserve important environmental attributes, such as rare flora and fauna. Only includes hectares of environmentally sensitive/protected areas within the public park system.
Total population of the municipality based on 2020 sources, unless otherwise noted.
Direct operating expenditures (not including revenues) for the Current Budget Year for maintaining parks and natural areas. This includes:
- planting and maintenance of trees in park/natural areas
- graffiti & vandalism repair
- management, administration & operational staff salaries
- consultant/contractor costs
- parks horticultural plantings
- maintenance of closed cemeteries if carried out from the Parks Operating Budget
- parks litter pickup & waste disposal
- inspection and maintenance of splash pads, playgrounds & outdoor fitness equipment
- maintenance & replacement of park furniture
- public toilets where maintained from parks budget
- sports field maintenance
- snow clearing and ice control for parks & natural areas
- any other parks/green space maintenance costs except cemetery costs where the cemetery is "active"
- Does not include: golf courses, swimming pools, indoor recreation facilities/halls, forestry, and zoos.
Capital expenditure for all capital items related to land improvement works, planned for completion during the current financial year. It includes both new and renewal work, capital items carried forward from previous years, and salaries and wages for all staff involved in the design, planning and delivery of Capital projects.
Community gardens/urban farms are food-growing gardens available for the public to use that may require membership. This includes community orchards.
Includes both standalone dog parks and off-leash dog areas within parks.
Includes only volunteers who have worked directly with the municipality (not external organizations). Programming refers to publicly accessible activities and events (e.g., yoga classes, nature walks, park cleanups, farmer's markets, festivals, celebrations, etc.). Programming does not include any large commercial activities, such as a private party.
A formal municipal program through which residents can get involved in parks. An example would be an adopt-a-park program. The roles of these groups may include environmental stewardship (e.g., clean-ups), social/recreational programming (e.g., festivals, yoga in the park), etc. Does not include one-off volunteer opportunities (e.g., volunteering at a specific event).
A monetary grant offered by the municipality that residents and community groups can apply for, and can be used for the purposes of improving or programming parks.
An ongoing partnership between the city and a non-profit organization that includes a programming or maintenance agreement in a park.
An overall plan or strategy dealing with the municipality’s current and future park/greenspace provision needs. It usually includes an analysis of current provision against population and a review of future park/greenspace acquisition/disposal needs.
The design of parks or park amenities to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized modification. This would include people of all ages, and those with and without disabilities.
Also known as low-impact development. The engineering of natural systems that capture, hold, and treat rainwater where it falls. It may include features such as bioretention ponds, rain gardens, and bioswales.