Not into nature? Here's why you still need parks.
Avid campers, bird-watchers, hikers, fishing fanatics, and picnic-ers likely see the value in Manitoba parks. They provide endless opportunities for outdoor activities, both recreational and organized, while also providing vital resources for Manitoba's many creatures.
Park lovers: we see you, we hear you, and we appreciate you—but this blog is not tailored to you (and we say that in the most loving way). This blog is aimed at reaching people who perhaps don't see the big deal when it comes to why Manitoba needs (and we do mean need) its parks.
Let's start off by clarifying why we're talking about this now—seeing as the busiest park season of 2020 has come and gone.
A contract to study and evaluate Manitoba’s provincial parks has been awarded by Travel Manitoba to Manitoba-based firm MNP LLP in combination with HTFC Planning and Design and Prairie Research Associates.
The goal of the Travel Manitoba-funded study is to consider the current state of Manitoba’s provincial parks and to review all options for improved parks services, as well as to develop additional facilities and amenities.
The review will also consider how other jurisdictions, provincially and nationally, manage parks and will provide options for revenue generation in order to sustain high-quality, public provincial parks. It will conclude with recommendations for the development of a new Manitoba provincial parks strategy.
The transparent review process will survey provincial park users, cottage owners, and business owners who operate within the parks and special interest organizations.
The study is expected to conclude in the spring of 2021 with a report delivered to Minister of Conservation and Climate, Honourable Sarah Guillemard, from Travel Manitoba.
With this blog post, Lake Friendly hopes to reach Manitobans who don't consider themselves avid park-users to explain why preserving and improving our parks is important for all of us.
Health benefits—both for you and the environment
It seems fitting to list this point as the first, with 2020 being the poster year for outdoor physical activities. While many Manitobans normally opt for gym memberships, fitness classes, and group activities, this year's COVID-19 restrictions put some hurdles in those paths. Manitobans had to find ways to stay active in their homes or in outdoor spaces—which is why Manitoba Parks and Protected Spaces saw a surge in visitors over the last nine months.
And while any form of physical activity is great, the facts show that venturing out into the great outdoors might be more beneficial!
A study by Penn State University showed significant correlations to reductions in stress, lowered blood pressure, and perceived physical health to the length of stay in visits to parks.
And it's not only about our health. Parks and protected public lands are proven to improve water quality, protect groundwater, prevent flooding, improve the quality of the air we breathe, provide vegetative buffers to development, and produce habitat for wildlife. As cities grow, more animals find themselves without homes. Parks provide a safe place for many of those displaced by urban sprawl.
Building a healthy network of parks in our city is one major way we can protect these animals and preserve local ecosystems—something that should be a major part of any city planning going forward.
All of these benefits while providing a place for people to connect with nature? Win-win!
Parks improve the local tax base and increase property values. It's proven that private property values increase the closer that piece of land is to parks. This then increases property tax revenues and improves local economies.
As discussed on the website for the National Recreation and Park Association, parks and recreation programs generate revenue directly from fees and charges, but more importantly, provide significant indirect revenues to local and regional economies. Special events such as arts, music, and holiday festivals as well as sports tournaments all bring in revenue, which adds value to the local and regional economies.
Not to mention that having some robust parks in your region also means attracting more business and industries to the area. In a study for the NRPA, quality parks and recreation sites are stated as one of the top three factors that business consider when making relocation decisions.
Parks are viewed as a reflection of the quality of life in a community, and are often cited as one of the most important factors in how "livable" a community is deemed.
Studies have also shown that increasing the number of parks and recreational facilities in a neighbourhood often reduces crime rates, especially among youth. By giving young people a safe place to interact with one another they keep them off the streets and out of trouble. For example, many American communities have created “Midnight Basketball” programs, keeping courts open late and drastically reducing their youth crime rates. Similarly, when parks are used by many people, there are more eyes on the street, creating a safer environment for everyone.
We hope that this blog taught you a little bit about how much parks mean to provinces like Manitoba. Without them, our home would look very different and likely wouldn't provide all that it does for residents.
Manitobans can learn more about this recent provincial announcement and stay up to date with provincial parks news, activities, and events by following the social media accounts www.facebook.com/MBGovParks or www.twitter.com/MBGovParks.
Stay safe. Stay curious. And stay Lake Friendly!