By their very nature, parks are shared spaces. They can be platforms where we build strong relationships to the natural world around us as well as to others in our community.

For some this may prompt them to give back to their favourite parks, whether through money, time, or expertise. Regardless of the method, the process involves the sometimes messy world of learning how to work together and share responsibility.

In this year’s report, we explore philanthropic interest in parks—individual gifts, foundation grants, and community-led initiatives—and how cities can better ensure these investments are made in a way that is accountable and equitable.

We also profile how community-led groups and non-profits are working to improve the natural environment in their parks by building partnerships with city staff and other organizations, launching their own citizen science initiatives, and deepening our responsibility to the land.

COVID-19 has reduced volunteer opportunities. The average number of volunteers per thousand dropped from 11.6 to 2.7 compared to last year’s report, reflecting reduced opportunities for park volunteering due to the pandemic.

Volunteer interest is likely to rebound. 58% of Canadians said that COVID-19 had caused them to become more interested in getting involved in stewardship projects, suggesting new interest in city, non-profit, and resident-led volunteer programs post-pandemic.

Private investment stable. 60% of cities reported that interest in private investment in parks, such as philanthropy and sponsorships, was unchanged, with the remaining 40% split between increasing or decreasing.

  • Build partnerships from a unique strengths perspective by acknowledging what each party can bring—such as specific expertise, funding, or programming—and document these strengths through outlining clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Create transparent frameworks for assessing private park funding, evaluating proposals based on factors such as community and city priorities, ongoing required maintenance, and citywide needs.
  • Increase the accessibility of park grants, whether city or foundation/non-profit-led, by reviewing which communities have historically received funding, as well as potential barriers to access, including eligibility requirements and language.
Sponsor the next issue.
The only report tracking the key trends and challenges facing city parks across Canada.