Monday November 8 2010
Ontario parks go by a number of different names: national parks,Ontario provincial parks, regional conservation areas, municipal parks, wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves. A lot of that has to do with who funds them and who runs them. To the average visitor, though, that doesn’t really matter. What matters are the wonderful attractions they offer, especially to those of us who live in cities and need that escape to nature to keep us sane. These attractions include: encounters with Canadian wildlife, opportunities to explore hiking trails, a look back in time at Ontario history, and sporting adventures.
If you were raised in Ontario, you probably feel the same way as I do about Ontario parks. They inhabit a special place in your heart. If you’re just moved to the province, or or are just visiting (welcome!!), then these parks will soon squirrel their way into your heart as well.
I spent much of my childhood summers in Ontario parks. My family used to go camping in Algonquin Park, picnicking in Balls Falls, and strolling in the manicured landscapes surrounding Niagara Falls Because of our “history” together, I feel that these green oases are a big part of my identity. I treasure them, am proud of them, and welcome visitors to share them with me.
Who uses Ontario parks?
Nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, and heritage lovers visit Ontario parks. The parks therefore cater to a great many different needs. Different parks specialize in different activities.
Features of Ontario parks?
Some parks are very close to their natural state and offer basic trails only (and in the wilderness no trails at all!), while others cater to all kinds of sporting and cultural interests. Some welcome only day-trippers, while some welcome overnight campers as well. Features vary from park to park, so it’s best to investigate before you visit to ensure you’ll find the features you’re seeking.
Some of these features might include:
-large wildlife – visit Algonquin Park for moose and other large animal sightings
-birds – parks popular with birders include the famous Point Pelee National Park or Cootes Paradise and the RBG in Hamilton.
-waterfalls – Niagara Falls may be the best known, but they aren’t the only falls in the province. Southern Ontario has many waterfalls, especially around Hamilton and Dundas. Check out some of my favourites, Websters Falls or Balls Falls.
-gardens – many parks, especially those in urban areas, have spectacular flower gardens; the Royal Botanical Gardens are the most famous. Some of the prettiest and most popular gardens are along the Niagara Parkway which runs through the city of Niagara Falls
National parks are places of natural beauty that are protected and preserved for all Canadians and for the world.
Each national park represents a particular natural region of Canada. There is at least one located in each of the nation’s 13 provinces and territories. They are administered by Parks Canada, which also manages 157 National Historic Sites.
Since 1971, the non-profit conservation group Nature Canada has played an important role in the protection of more than 125,000 square kilometres of lands and waters in Canada’s national parks system. Today Nature Canada and its supporters are calling on the government to conserve marine and terrestrial biodiversity by establishing networks of federal protected areas, including national parks, on land and in our oceans and to ensure their long-term ecological integrity.
Why Establish National Parks
National parks perform essential, irreplaceable ecological services that everyone depends on to survive, such as producing clean air and water, and providing critical habitat for endangered species.
National parks play a role in regulating the climate, by protecting existing carbon stored in trees and plants, which helps to reduce the effects of global warming.
When a national park is established, some of our most important wild lands are permanently protected from industrial and commercial development. It helps to preserve biodiversity, maintain healthy ecosystems, and provide a place for globally significant wildlife populations to live and thrive.
Canada’s national, provincial and territorial parks create jobs and support local businesses, many of which are in Aboriginal and other rural and remote communities. According to a 2006 report by the Canadian Parks Council, parks contributed the equivalent of 60,000 fulltime positions, and $2.5 billion to the Canadian economy.
Spending time in parks improves people’s physical and mental health and well-being, contributing to lowering health care costs.
People visit parks to stay active by participating in healthful outdoor activities, such as hiking, canoeing, or cross-country skiing. They are places for families to get together and for children to safely explore and learn about the natural environment.
National Park Facts
- Canada’s national parks system began in 1885 with the protection of several tiny hot springs in a 23-square kilometer reserve in Banff, Alberta.
- There are 42 national parks in Canada, representing 28 natural regions. Eleven natural regions remain unrepresented.
- Canada is bound by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to establish a network of protected areas across the country by 2010, based on a treaty signed in 1992.
- Canada has set aside less than seven per cent of its land for protection—a small fraction of this vast country.
- Canada ranks 61st in terms of the percentage of lands it protects, lagging behind the United States, Germany, Guatemala and Zimbabwe.
- Government spending on national parks, in Canadian dollars, per hectare is $8.84, compared to $62.44 in the U.S.
- At 44,807 km2, Wood Buffalo National Park is Canada’s largest national park and one of the largest in the world.
Doug Worrall Photography