Canada-wide data
2023 Surveys
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The latest park data from our surveys of 35 municipalities and over 2000 residents of Canadian cities.

Community Engagement & Programming

City residents are passionate about shaping their parks. Harnessing this passion while balancing competing visions for parks presents challenges for city staff, but also critical opportunities.

As systemic barriers restrict city residents' ability to enjoy parks and participate in planning processes, it is vital that cities develop thoughtful engagement strategies to ensure decision-making is not just guided by the loudest (and often most privileged) voices.

Community Engagement

Most city residents do not feel they have the ability to influence decision-making about their local park, with many reporting barriers related to the opacity of city engagement processes.

While cities acknowledge that engaging hard-to-reach groups is challenging, the majority also reported that they are satisfied with their current engagement efforts.

This highlights a disconnect between how municipalities and city residents are perceiving the success of park engagement strategies. More work is needed to remove barriers to participation, particularly for equity-deserving communities.

of cities said that engaging hard-to-reach groups is a challenge.
of cities said they feel satisfied with the quality and quantity of engagement they do with equity-deserving communities.
of cities disagreed that the internal processes and culture within the municipality/parks department allow them to experiment with new approaches and quickly respond to emerging needs.
of city residents feel they have a voice or the ability to influence decision-making about their local park, 43% do not, with the remaining unsure.

Lack of time and opaque processes top barriers to community engagement

We asked: What barriers (if any) prevent you from becoming more involved in park planning processes led by your municipality (e.g., engagement sessions about upcoming park projects, feedback surveys, etc.)?

Not enough time to participate
Unsure how to get involved
Lack of engagement opportunities related to the park issues I care about
Unsure if my participation would make a difference
Busy with childcare/family responsibilities
Visible/invisible disabilities make it difficult to participate

Park Groups & Programming

City residents have a strong desire to be more involved in parks, whether through attending park programs or engaging in advocacy.

However, cities face resourcing challenges in meeting demand for park programs directly.

Community park groups that organize events and activities in local parks play a vital role in expanding opportunities for residents to get involved, but many of these groups are not feeling adequately supported by their municipalities.

Investing in building relationships with these groups to better meet their needs is one way to address this challenge and create more avenues for residents to get involved.

of cities said they have a strong relationship with community park groups, while only 39% of community park groups said they have a strong relationship with their municipality.
of cities said they do not have adequate resources (staffing, budget, knowledge) to support the needs of community park groups.
of cities said they've observed increased community demand for park stewardship programs in the past year.
of cities said they do not have adequate resources (staffing, budget, knowledge) to meet demand for park programs.
of city residents are interested in becoming more involved in their local park(s).
  • 56% are interested in advocating for park improvements or green space protection
  • 50% are interested in participating in park events/activities organized by others
  • 33% are interested in organizing park events/activities (e.g. community BBQ, park clean-up, nature walk)

Indigenous programming top priority for cities

We asked: Thinking of the park projects and initiatives your municipality has planned for the next year, please rate whether each of the following is a high, medium, or low priority in 2023.

Creating more opportunities for...

  • Indigenous engagement/programming
  • Food growing, cooking & selling opportunities in parks (e.g. community gardens, edible orchards, farmers markets, bake ovens)
  • Volunteer-based natural stewardship and education opportunities (e.g. tree planting, invasive pulling, etc.)
  • Park friends groups (i.e. friends of X park)

Conflicting Uses and Experiences

Parks are contested spaces.

Our individual park experiences are shaped by aspects of our personal identity (age, race, gender, disability, etc.), our activities, the formal and informal rules of the space, and so much more.

This means there are often conflicting visions for parks, and this conflict all takes place within a context of systemic inequity that privileges certain uses—and users—of parks over others.

The challenge for cities is to ensure that they are not simply listening to the loudest voices or adopting complaint-driven responses, but rather planning proactively to balance conflicting needs through an equity lens.

of cities said that community complaints (e.g. through 311 or elected officials' offices) influence priority-setting in the parks department, with 49% noting they have a strong influence
of cities said addressing systemic inequities and discrimination in parks is a challenge, but 59% classified it as a minor rather than major challenge
of city residents said that they don't feel safe or welcome in their neighbourhood parks, 13% said they fear ticketing or policing, and 13% said they fear harassment or discrimination.
of cities collect data on perceptions of park "quality" and 20% on socio-demographic identities of park visitors, highlighting a gap in understanding parkgoers' experiences
of cities said that developing equity-based tools to guide park investments is a high (47%) or medium (24%) priority for the next year.
of city residents said that they appreciate seeing people use parks in different ways than they do personally (e.g. variety of activities).
of city residents believe people experience parks differently based on aspects of their identity, like age, gender, race, or culture—a slight increase from 77% in 2021 and 2022.
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Don’t see your city on the list?
Thirty-five cities participated in this year's report and we hope more will join us next year.
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