The latest park data from our surveys of 35 municipalities and over 2000 residents of Canadian cities.
This year, we heard that priority issues for park planning include ensuring both quantity and quality of parkland meet community needs, planning proactively for a changing climate, and developing informed responses to encampments.
Demand For Land
Cities are feeling a parkland pinch. This year we saw a significant bump in cities reporting challenges keeping pace with population growth.
We also heard new concerns about the implications of provincial policy changes, particularly in Ontario, which limit municipalities' ability to secure adequate, quality green space into the future.
However, strong support from residents for initiatives like street-to-park conversions points to possibilities for creative solutions.
Park amenities—their presence, absence, type, location, condition, and so on—have a significant impact on how people experience their local park, or even if they visit it at all.
As cities struggle to maintain existing assets and adapt to changing needs, residents continue to look for essential amenities, like washrooms, seating, and shelter from the elements.
Washrooms and native plantings top priorities for residents, 2nd year in a row
We asked: In the following list of amenities, please indicate which you would like to see more of in parks and green spaces?
Universal accessibility, sports infrastructure, and trails top priorities 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.
- Universally accessible designs
- Outdoor spaces and infrastructure for organized sports
- Multi-use trails (e.g. walking, cycling)
- Naturalized areas in parks
- Off-leash dog areas
- Green infrastructure development in parks (e.g. rain gardens, bioswales)
- Unstructured spaces to just hang out (i.e. rather than participate in organized activities)
- Adventure play (e.g. nature playgrounds, loose parts play)
- Privately-owned public space development (i.e. publicly accessible spaces secured by the municipality on privately owned land)
- Digital infrastructure (e.g. wifi, park-based apps)
Planning parks for climate resilience is top of mind this year, as hurricanes, ice storms, and wildfires have left their mark on parks from coast-to-coast.
Naturalizing park spaces with native plantings is a strategy popular among cities and residents alike.
However, there remains work to be done to embed climate resiliency in citywide park plans, ensure the work is informed by an equity lens, and integrate traditional knowledge of Indigenous communities.
Green infrastructure and native plantings most common strategies for climate resiliency
We asked: What strategies does your municipality currently use to plan parks for climate resilience?
Adopting human rights-based responses to encampments remains a major challenge for cities.
After many ad hoc responses during the early stages of the pandemic, we are seeing an intention among municipalities to prioritize more informed, consistent strategies moving forward.
Despite high volumes of public complaints regarding encampments, our data shows that these voices do not represent the majority. For most city residents, the presence of encampments has not disrupted their personal use of parks.
Strategies & Plans Inventory
% of participating cities have strategies in place on the following topics that address parks and have been updated in the past 10 years
*Note: Includes 20% of cities that have a standalone biodiversity plan, and 40% of cities that have a broader environmental plan that addresses biodiversity and parks.